Worley, Polanco lead Pirates past Padres, 2-1

Travis Sawchik
| Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, 10:03 p.m.

Vance Worley was his “Vanimal” self Friday night, and Gregory Polanco is counter-punching.

Worley dominated the San Diego Padres, allowing one run and five hits in seven innings, and Polanco went 3 for 4 to lead the Pirates to a 2-1 win in front of the 13th sellout of the season at PNC Park.

The Pirates (62-53) moved to a season-best nine games above .500. The Pirates moved a half-game ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals for second place in the NL Central and into wild-card position.

After Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said the league had “punched back” at their prized rookie, Polanco is again looking like the precocious impact player the Pirates hoped he would be.

After a four-RBI game Thursday against the Miami Marlins, Polanco drove in the tying run and scored the go-ahead run Friday. He has hit safely in eight of his past nine games.

“The foot is down early. The barrel is getting out in front, hitting ball where it's pitched,” Hurdle said. “We anticipated him having to battle and figure some things out. We also anticipated him finding his way back.”

In the first inning, Polanco demonstrated that speed never slumps.

After ripping a single to right to score Josh Harrison to tie the score 1-1 in the first — Harrison reached via a leadoff triple — Polanco stole second and advanced to third on an errant throw by Padres catcher Rene Rivera. Ike Davis scored Polanco with a sacrifice fly to deep right to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead after the first.

“I'm just watching my videos and seeing how they pitch me,” Polanco said. “I'm just doing what I was doing before.”

Polanco also ripped an Ian Kennedy fastball into the right-field corner for a double, and he singled in the fifth.

The two runs were all the support Worley (5-1) required. The other stretch of trouble came in the sixth, when the Padres loaded the bases with no outs. Worley induced Jedd Gyorko to ground into a 5-2-3 double play, and Yonder Alonso flied to left to end the threat. Each team wasted one bases-loaded, no-out opportunity.

“I just went after him,” Worley said. “I knew what I needed, and that was a ground ball.”

“We just couldn't get the big hit,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “We stressed Worley but couldn't break through.”

Worley was at his best when he struck out the side in the seventh.

The Pirates avoided a scare in the fifth inning. Harrison was caught stealing, and in the process Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera fell and rolled on Harrison's left ankle. Harrison, in severe pain, was slow to get up. He also injured his hand on the play. He walked from the field under his own power and came back out for the sixth inning.

“Toward the last inning (the ankle) stiffened up, the adrenaline wore down a little bit, but it's all right,” Harrison said. “I was able to finish the game, which is a good thing.”

Harrison again started instead of Pedro Alvarez at third base. Alvarez returned Friday from a stay on the bereavement list. He entered the game as a pinch hitter for Worley in the seventh and popped out to third. Alvarez left the clubhouse without speaking to reporters.

The Pirates' embattled bullpen secured the victory. Tony Watson pitched a scoreless eighth, and Mark Melancon struck out the side in the ninth for his 21st save.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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