Pirates' improved offense contributes to 7-4 win against Marlins


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MIAMI -- Before the game Saturday night, manager Clint Hurdle addressed the Pirates' efforts to improve the offense, especially from his first-base and right-field platoon players and second baseman Neil Walker.

Saturday night, the Pirates received contributions from players Hurdle alluded to whose productions have lagged in comparison with previous seasons: Walker, Garrett Jones and Michael McKenry.

The increased offense resulted in a 7-4 win against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park and compensated for an uneven outing from Charlie Morton.

McKenry led the way, going 4 for 5 and driving in two runs, but he became the second Pirates catcher in two games to tweak his knee. He did so sliding into second base in the seventh inning attempting to break up a double play.

"I was just trying to take out the guy at second base and he went back," McKenry said about how his left knee was hurt. "Last-minute slide and just hit it pretty good."

He stayed in the game, but jogged slowly to first on a groundout in the ninth.

"It's just kind of stuck, best way to put it," he said of his knee.

Hurdle said it was too early to tell if McKenry would be available today or whether the Pirates might bring Class AAA Indianapolis catcher Tony Sanchez to town in a taxi-squad situation as insurance. Russell Martin, who tweaked his knee Friday on a play at the plate, planned on starting today. Hurdle said he would confer with general manager Neal Huntington after the game.

"He has been very, very good for us," Hurdle said of McKenry's offensive performance. "He handles the staff well. Didn't panic and he added a lot of value to the game tonight."

Walker went 3 for 5 with two RBIs. Jones went 2 for 4 with a double and drove in two runs.

"It's no secret there's been a few of us that haven't, numbers wise, done what we've done in the past as far as driving in runs or scoring runs," Walker said. "You can't turn back the clock. From here forward you're just working to help the team win on a nightly basis."

After the game, Walker's average was .243 with a .386 slugging percentage.

"If my numbers improve, in my opinion, the team's going to be better, especially in the role that I'm in," he said. "And I understand that."

The Pirates collected 14 hits Saturday night.

"We put some good at-bats together, got some two-out RBIs, drove the ball well," Jones said.

Starling Marte led off the game with a double to left field. Walker followed by poking a double down the third-base line, scoring Marte.

Andrew McCutchen grounded out to move Walker to third and Pedro Alvarez struck out, bringing Jones to the plate. He poked a pop fly to left field. The ball fell between left fielder Christian Yelich and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, allowing Walker to score.

Jones ended up on second and scored on McKenry's single, giving the Pirates a 3-0 lead.

The Pirates also started the third with consecutive hits after Walker and McCutchen singled. Alvarez beat out a double-play attempt to put runners on first and third.

When Jones worked the count to 3-2 with one out, Alvarez took off for second three times. After two foul balls, the third try paid off. Jones singled, scoring Walker, and Alvarez reached third.

Alvarez scored on McKenry's second RBI single of the game and the Pirates led, 5-1.

Tom Koehler (2-6) threw 74 pitches in the first three innings. He allowed five runs on nine hits in five innings.

Charlie Morton (3-2) allowed four runs, three earned, on nine hits in five innings. He didn't walk a batter but lacked his best pitches.

"They're a pretty aggressive team," Morton said. "For the most part they were swinging from the get-go."

Justin Wilson, Bryan Morris and Tony Watson kept the Marlins scoreless for the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Mark Melancon earned his fourth save.

Walker noticed the Pirates' at-bats getting better in the series against the Washington Nationals and said he believed a good approach by one player can trickle down to the rest of the lineup.

"When you see guys have good at-bats in front of you and are aggressive or seeing a lot of pitches, those type of things, they help on down the line," he said. "[Saturday night] was a good example of that."

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Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published July 28, 2013 2:45 AM


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