Resilient Pirates delivered clutch hits in Friday's comeback victory
PHOENIX — The Pirates went 9 for 16 with runners in scoring position in Friday's 9-4 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. The splurge came after they went 9 for 49 over their previous seven games.
Eight of those clutch hits Friday came in the final two innings, when the Pirates scored eight runs to erase a 4-1 deficit.
“It's nice to be able to do that,” catcher Russell Martin said. “You don't want to put yourself in that position too often, but it shows the resiliency we have. We always grind out at-bats, regardless of what type of game it is. It doesn't mean we're going to win every night, but at least we know we can trust each other to play that kind of baseball.”
Martin delivered an RBI single in the eighth inning, his only hit of the game. Martin has 11 hits in his past 20 at-bats with runners in scoring position, so he must be doing something right.
“I wish I had the answer,” he said. “I'm still trying to be better at it. You've got to know your strengths and know the situation. Sometimes they'll pitch around you, and you've got to know that.”
That's an area where Andrew McCutchen excels. Martin said he has learned how to approach those situations by studying McCutchen's approach.
“McCutchen knows when they will pitch to him and when they won't,” Martin said. “He doesn't chase much. He has great ability, super-lightning hands, so he can wait for the ball to get so deep.
“I just try to pick a certain pitch and a certain spot. Not trying to do too much is a big key. Sometimes you get guys in scoring position and you get amped, then get yourself out. We've been doing that a lot better as a team this year.”
The Pirates rank sixth in the National League with a .253 batting average with runners in scoring position. They are first in the league with a .358 on-base percentage and fourth with a .722 OPS with runners in scoring position.
Also on Friday, bench players contributed three hits and five RBIs. Travis Snider capped the scoring with a two-run single. Michael Martinez bounced an RBI single up the middle.
The biggest pinch-hit of the game was delivered by Pedro Alvarez. With two outs in the eighth, he slammed a two-run double that tied the game at 4-4.
“A huge at-bat,” Martin said. “Pedro hasn't had too many at-bats in the last couple of days, and he was going against a lefty. To contribute there in a positive way was big. It lifted everybody up.”
Alvarez whacked a 2-2 fastball from left-handed reliever Eury De La Rosa into the gap in right-center field. It was Alvarez's first pinch-hit since July 3, 2012.
“It's not something we ask him to do a lot of,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Two years sounds like a long time, but how many at-bats has it consumed? It's a hard job for an everyday player. It should boost his confidence.”
As a pinch hitter, Alvarez went 2 for 10 in 2011, 2 for 4 in 2012 and 0 for 1 last year. This season, he is 1 for 7.
Alvarez said his approach at the plate stays the same, whether he's batting as a starter or off the bench.
“The only difference I've noticed is, you really have to go up there ready to hit,” Alvarez said. “Sometimes that first pitch you see is the only one you'll get to drive. You have to be ready as soon as you step in the box.”