Pirates notebook: Mercer says slump made him stronger
SAN DIEGO — Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer was an unlikely offensive hero Monday.
Mercer dragged a .199 batting average into the game against the San Diego Padres. He was benched two games in the previous series against the Los Angeles Dodgers to give him time to regroup at the plate.
Mercer collected a career-high four hits. He tagged a long home run in the third inning, then singled in the fourth, sixth and seventh. Mercer also walked and scored four runs.
According to Elias, Mercer is the first Pirate with a sub-.200 average with at least 150 at-bats to get four hits in a game since Darnell Coles in 1987. Coles, who was hitting .187, went 4 for 4 against the Chicago Cubs.
“He needed to find a place inside himself where he just went out and played,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He wasn't overthinking the at-bat. He settled into the box, hit what you see and try to hit it hard where it's pitched. He seemed to find that rhythm toward the end of May.”
On Saturday, after two straight days out of the lineup, Mercer went 2 for 4 to snap an 0-for-21 skid. It was his first multi-hit game since May 18.
“It's something I haven't been through before,” Mercer said of his slump. “But I think I'm going to be a way better player coming out of it. I've got people who believe in me here.”
Andrew McCutchen dropped one spot to fourth place among outfielders in the latest voting results for the NL All-Star team. McCutchen has 823,862 votes, which puts him 39,445 behind third-place Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins.
Neil Walker is in third place among second basemen with 365,050 votes. Walker has little chance to catch leader Chase Utley of the Philadelphia Phillies, who has almost 1 million votes already, and is 165,239 behind second-place Dee Gordon of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Pirates have not had a starting All-Star elected by the fans since Jason Bay in 2006.
In the High-A Florida State League, Bradenton outfielder Josh Bell and left-hander Orlando Castro were named to the South Division all-star team. The FSL all-star game will be played June 14 at McKechnie Field.
The longest night
It only felt like the Pirates and Padres played a doubleheader.
Four hours and four minutes after the game began Monday, Yonder Alfonso grounded to second baseman Neil Walker for the final out. The 10-3 Pirates victory was the longest nine-inning home game in Padres history.
“It was a long one, for sure,” Mercer said. “But it's always better when you score a lot of runs and win, so we'll take it.”
The teams combined for 21 hits, 12 walks, 21 strikeouts, six hit batters and one balk.
Padres pitchers threw 249 pitches, the most ever by a San Diego staff in a nine-inning game. Compared to that, the Pirates' total of 156 seems downright tidy.
San Diego starter Tim Stauffer lasted only 2 2⁄3 innings, yet somehow managed to throw 71 pitches.
“That's nothing,” Pirates reliever Jared Hughes said. “I was in a game once at (Class A) Hickory where there were 100 pitches thrown in one inning by four different pitchers. I didn't pitch that night, but I had to chart the game. It was a long night.”
The Pirates have endured four games that went beyond four hours this season. That includes the mother of all marathons: a 16-inning clash April 2 against the Chicago Cubs that droned on for 5:55, the longest game ever in Pittsburgh.
After the few hundred fans who had stuck it out at Petco Park staggered into the night, Hurdle was asked what he thought of the game. He looked up wearily and sighed.
“Time to go home,” he said.