Baseball players often say hitting is contagious. It certainly was for the Pirates Friday night as they pounded 16 hits and trounced the Milwaukee Brewers, 15-5, in front of a crowd of 35,544 at PNC Park in the opener of a pivotal three-game series.
Eight Pirates got a hit and eight Pirates registered at least one RBI in a mix that included four extra-base hits, including homers by shortstop Jordy Mercer and centerfielder Andrew McCutchen.
"You don't want to be the one to get an out, basically, is how it happens," said Mercer, who continued his hot hitting by going 2 for 5 with a homer and three RBIs.
"People in front of you are getting hits and they are having fun, so you want to join the party. A game like tonight is a lot of fun, we enjoyed it."
Russell Martin, who was 3 for 3 with 4 RBIs and three runs scored, said "any time in a season when you can feed off each other like that, it is going to be a fun time.
"And that's especially against a team who we are trailing right now [in the standings], that is a great baseball team.
"So, if you can beat up on a good baseball team, it builds a little confidence."
The win pulled the Pirates (29-31) to within six games of the National League Central Division-leading Brewers (36-26) and more importantly pulled them to within two games of the wild-card spot.
The big inning for the Pirates was the sixth when they scored eight runs to turn a close game into a laugher.
The Pirates chased Brewers starter Kyle Lohse (7-2) in the inning while sending 13 batters to the plate.
There were six hits and four walks.
Martin threw the knockout blow, delivering a bases-clearing, two-out double off of Milwaukee reliever Tyler Thornburg that pushed the Pirates lead to 12-3.
"I don't know if we did much different [against Lohse] than in the past," Martin said.
"I think he just made a few more mistakes up in the zone and didn't seem to have the best feel for his offspeed stuff tonight and we were able to grind some hits out.
"We kept the pressure on him by getting guys on base and keeping him in uncomfortable situations and then we took advantage of some of the mistakes he made."
It was the first loss for Lohse (7-2), who went five innings, allowed nine hits and eight runs, since he lost against Atlanta opening day.
He also dropped to 11-3 lifetime against the Pirates, 6-2 at PNC Park.
Lohse gave way to Tyler Thornburg in the sixth. All the reliever did was extend the Pirates batting practice as they cracked him for five runs, three hits, and four walks in one inning.
Mercer, centerfielder Andrew McCutchen and leftfielder Jose Tabata each had two hits and two RBIs and even pinch-hitter Travis Snider, fighting a season-long slump, was 2 for 2.
Tabata was given the start instead of Starling Marte, who spent his fourth game in a row on the bench.
And Tabata likely deserved the start, too, because he has had a lot of success against Lohse.
He thrived against him again and finished the night 2 for 4, with two RBIs and a run.
Pirates starter Brandon Cumpton got his first win this season and improved to 1-2, even though he was shaky at times and lasted only 51?3 innings.
Cumpton gave up three runs, eight hits and walked two but unlike Lohse he wriggled out of some jams and avoided a big inning.
Cumpton needed to get back on track because his previous start was a rough one against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. There, he lasted 32/3 innings May 31.
Cumpton gave up 11 hits and 11 runs (10 earned) in a 12-2 loss. Manager Clint Hurdle's way of saying how important the start was for Cumpton was to say that for any young pitcher has to learn to follow a bad start with a good one.
"It was great to get back out there and get back up on the horse," Cumpton said. "I tried to pound the zone and get ahead early and I had some success. I just tried to compete, push the last start out of my head and attack guys. I need to keep getting better and I just need to continue to trust my stuff."