The Pirates bullpen imploded in an ugly eighth inning Tuesday night, marking the club's return to PNC Park from a 10-game road trip with a blown save.
Justin Wilson walked in a pair of eighth-inning runs, Jeanmar Gomez surrendered a bases loaded single, a run-scoring fielder's choice and an RBI double, and the Miami Marlins went on to beat the Pirates, 6-3.
Gregory Polanco singled in Neil Walker in the seventh, putting the Pirates (59-53) in line for a 2-1 win, but the Marlins (55-57) loaded the bases in the eighth before quickly pulling away. Walker left the game because of a tight back after scoring the run.
"We just didn't meet the demands of the game in the eighth inning," said manager Clint Hurdle. "There were walks involved, we made an error. We didn't get done the things we needed to get done with a one-run lead."
With one out in the eighth, Giancarlo Stanton drew a walk off reliever Jared Hughes and Casey McGehee followed with a potential double-play ball to third. Josh Harrison, who moved from left field to third base in a double switch, went to his left to field the ball, but it bounced off his glove and both runners were safe.
Hughes said he had a feeling the walk might haunt them.
"I've got to get ahead in the count right there. Walking the tying run with nobody on base, it's going to come back and get you, and it did today," he said.
Hurdle chose to go to left-hander Justin Wilson at that point to face former Pirate Garrett Jones, but the Marlins countered with right-handed-hitting Jeff Baker, and he singled to right to load the bases for Marcell Ozuna, who doubled in the fourth for the Marlins' first run.
Wilson battled him with his fastball, but ultimately walked him on the eighth pitch, bringing in Stanton with the tying run.
Wilson then walked Jarrod Saltalamacchia and the Marlins went in front, 3-2. Hurdle went the bullpen again, summoning Jeanmar Gomez, but he gave up three more runs before Stolmy Pimentel struck out Stanton to end the brutal inning.
Chris Stewart drove in Gregory Polanco with a two-out single in the ninth, but Travis Snider struck out to end a rally that was both too late and too small.
Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton provided another quality start, pitching seven innings, giving up six hits and one earned run. He walked four and struck out four.
"Charlie did an outstanding job. It was a tough circumstance. We didn't step up and get it done in that eighth inning," said Hughes. "But you know it's something you've got to learn from, go out tomorrow and do it right."
Marlins starter Brad Hand went 61/3 innings, giving up six hits and two earned runs. He walked one and struck out four.
Reliever Bryan Morris put his former team down 1-2-3 in the eighth.
"Put up a zero, that's your goal every time out; put up a zero," said Morris, who said he got his jitters out of the way when the teams played earlier this season in Miami. "I did all right, and we came away with a good win."
The Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the third on Jordy Mercer's double into the right-field corner that drove in Starling Marte from first.
Mercer has had significant success from the No. 2 spot against left-handed pitchers this season and went 2 for 4 Tuesday.
The Marlins tied the score in the fourth when Ozuna's double to left scored Jones, who was safe on a play at the plate. The throw beat him there, but Stewart dropped it trying to make the tag.
"I think my sinker was pretty good, got a lot of ground balls and minimized damage," Morton said of his start. "I had some really good plays behind me, and Stewart called a really good game."
Jenn Menendez firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez First Published August 5, 2014 12:00 AM