Mercer's 2-run homer gives Burnett, Pirates victory
Friday was such a blur for Jordy Mercer that he wasn't sure when he arrived at PNC Park after being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis. But he remembers exactly how his at-bat in the fifth inning unfolded against the Washington Nationals.
Left-hander Ross Detwiler (1-3) was pounding fastballs and had good velocity. Mercer watched two balls come in, then connected. The ball sailed into the left-field bleachers for a two-run home run that broke open a tie game, and the Pirates held on for a 3-1 victory.
“I got myself in a good count and just let it fly, and whatever happens, happens after that,” said Mercer, who started at second base after the Pirates put Neil Walker on the 15-day disabled list earlier in the day.
It was another stingy start for right-hander A.J. Burnett (3-2), who gave up just one run and five hits, walked one and struck out nine in seven innings. He now has a league-leading 57 strikeouts.
Burnett said he and catcher Russell Martin were efficient, mixing changeups he doesn't normally throw and getting a few more strikeouts on fastballs than curveballs.
The game was tied after four innings on Andrew McCutchen's two-out home run in the first inning and an RBI single by Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa in the fourth.
“Jordy came up and had a great night. Welcome back, Jordy,” Burnett said. “It was a great win all together. Bullpen came in and did their thing, and that's how you set the tone for a series.”
Jason Grilli earned his 12th save.
Mark Melancon put runners on the corners with two outs and Bryce Harper up in the eighth. Harper, a .412 hitter with runners in scoring position, swung and missed twice. He fouled two off. Then, Melancon missed just outside for ball one. Martin set up to the outside again, and Harper swung and missed.
“He's gone after everybody this year,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “(Harper's) done a very good job hitting right-handed pitching, so that was a very good matchup. That's one of the prime-time matchups you look for when you come to a ballgame.”
Detwiler got two quick outs in the fifth before Starling Marte singled then stole second base after first baseman Adam LaRoche couldn't make the throw. Mercer, who was 0 for 2 in his first two at-bats, hit a long shot to left field, and the ball cleared the wall, staying out of reach of a leaping Harper.
“Anything I can do to help the team win,” said Mercer, who made his major league debut with the Pirates in 2012. “Last year helped out a ton. Coming back up, I was excited. But the jitters weren't there, and I think that helped out a lot.”