Pirates outslug Giants, 12-8
During his monthlong cooling spell, Starling Marte had tried to do too much.
As he slumped, the Pirates' leadoff man became over-aggressive at the plate and tried to pull too many pitches. As the Pirates' offense stagnated, he pushed and chased pitches out of the strike zone.
In a 12-8 win over the Giants on Wednesday, the Pirates produced season highs in runs and hits (18), besting their output from a May 11 victory over the Mets (11 runs, 16 hits). The season-best offense began at the top of the lineup with Marte, who produced his first career four-hit game. It began when Marte's teammates gave the 24-year-old with the lightning-quick bat and legs some advice: Slow it down.
“Some of the players were talking to him and telling him to wait a little bit longer for the ball,” said Marte through interpreter Heberto Andrade. “He tried to relax and hit the ball to the other field. … He tried that (Wednesday), and he saw the results.”
Marte scored four runs and stole two bases, looking much like the dynamic player he was during the first six weeks of the season. His average is back up to .289, and he's on pace to score 105 runs.
“It goes back to pitch selection,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, “maintaining discipline and zone discipline.”
The top three hitters in the Pirates order — Marte, Jordy Mercer and Andrew McCutchen — were a combined 10 for 15 with eight runs scored.
A day after Giants starter Tim Lincecum failed to pitch out of the fifth inning, Barry Zito also was removed from the game before recording 15 outs. Zito allowed 11 hits and eight runs — all earned — in 4 1⁄3 innings.
The Giants are the defending World Series champions, but the Pirates are providing a superior value in 2013 — and in this series.
Giants starting pitchers Zito, Lincecum and Thursday starter Matt Cain are earning a combined $65 million this season. The Pirates' payroll is $66 million. The Pirates (39-26) are 5½ games better than the Giants (33-31).
Neil Walker connected for his fifth homer of the season in the seventh, a line shot that just cleared the right-field wall and was changed from a double after an umpires' replay review. Walker added a two-run single in the fifth.
It was all in support of Liriano, who had pitched well at PNC Park until Wednesday. In 18 innings pitched at home, Francisco Liriano entered having posted a 0.96 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP. He had struck out 27 and walked five.
But Liriano was not sharp Wednesday. He struggled with command, and Giants batters were not chasing his off-speed pitches.
Liriano allowed eight hits and four runs — all earned — in six innings. He walked three and struck out two, a season low.
The Giants loaded the bases in the fifth, and Liriano allowed a two-run single to Joaquin Arias, tying the score, 4-4.
But fortunately for Liriano, he was bailed out by excellent run support.
Zito immediately gave back the lead in the bottom of the fifth during a five-run inning for the Pirates. Marte and Mercer led off the inning with singles. After a McCutchen strikeout, Gaby Sanchez walked and Russell Martin produced an RBI groundout. Pedro Alvarez and Walker followed with two-run hits.
The Pirates never lost the lead, while hoping to have rediscovered their offense.