In his first two at-bats, Gregory Polanco did all the damage the Pirates needed to do.
Polanco homered and doubled Wednesday night in the Pirates’ 5-1 victory against the Arizona Diamondbacks at PNC Park, driving in two runs and scoring twice.
Polanco and Charlie Morton, who recorded his second consecutive strong outing, gave the Pirates (44-40) their third win in a row and fifth in the past six games. They passed the Cincinnati Reds, who lost their third consecutive game Wednesday, in the National League Central Division standings and were tied with the second-place St. Louis Cardinals pending the Cardinals’ late game Wednesday night in San Francisco.
“We’re not going to measure ourselves against other teams and how they’re playing,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’re going to measure ourselves against ourselves.”
Polanco began the first with a double off the wall in right. He took third when Gerardo Parra bobbled the ball and scored on Starling Marte’s grounder.
Pedro Alvarez started the second with a bouncing single away from an infield shift. Jordy Mercer also singled. Morton attempted to put them in scoring position with a sacrifice, but instead bunted into a double play, leaving Mercer on.
On a 3-1 pitch, Polanco yanked a low, inside curveball over the Clemente Wall in right for his third homer and a 3-0 Pirates lead.
“I hit it like a golf [shot],” Polanco said.
Polanco broke an 0-for-12 streak with a pinch-hit single Tuesday night in what became a ninth-inning rally that led to a walk-off victory. Before that, he also was 6 for 35 since going 2 for 6 June 19 against Cincinnati.
“You have to keep working, keep doing what I’m doing,” Polanco said. “Stay strong in my mind. I know this is the major leagues, and it is hard to be here.”
Diamondbacks rookie starter Chase Anderson, making his ninth major league start, needed 88 pitches to record 11 outs. In those 32⁄3 innings, Anderson (5-4) allowed three runs and eight hits.
The Pirates added two runs in the eighth. Marte’s double scored Travis Snider and Andrew McCutchen’s bloop single fell between two outfielders to score Marte from second.
McCutchen, who fouled a ball off his foot before the hit, left the game in the ninth.
“Looks like his left foot hurts,” Hurdle said after the game.
Morton (5-9) completed six innings and allowed one run and five hits, but said he was not satisfied.
In his previous start, a seven-inning outing in which he struck out 11, he walked only one. Wednesday, he walked three of the first eight batters he faced, but kept the Diamondbacks scoreless.
“When I got into a tight spot, I made some good pitches,” Morton said. “I didn’t really get ahead of guys well.”
Morton navigated through a lineup featuring five left-handed batters, an extension of his improvement against left-handed batters this season. Left-handed batters had hit .313 with a .395 on-base percentage against Morton in his career, but he had held them to .232 with a .315 OBP this season before Wednesday.
“Getting a better idea of what’s working, making my misses a little bit better,” Morton said of his approach to left-handed batters. “If I miss, I’m missing more in[side], and I get that ball back. As opposed to me missing and them hitting a line drive.”
Justin Wilson and Tony Watson pitched scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth. Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless ninth with a four-run lead.
With one out in the third, Paul Goldschmidt singled, took second on a grounder and was running with two outs when Aaron Hill hit a pop fly to shallow center. The ball bounced off the glove of the sliding McCutchen, allowing Goldschmidt to score.
That was it for the Diamondbacks as the Pirates won for the 10th time in the past 13 games.
“We dug a hole. We’ve been digging out,” Hurdle said. “That’s all we’re doing right now is digging out.”
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published July 2, 2014 10:48 PM