Mercer's single wins it in 11th for Pirates
By Rob Biertempfel
Published: Friday, July 12, 2013, 10:45 p.m.
Jordy Mercer rolled a game-winning single into center field, ran out the play, then saw Starling Marte and a herd of happy Pirates racing his way. Mercer did what came naturally: He veered away as fast as possible.
“That's kind of the routine, I think,” Mercer said with a grin. “Hit a walkoff, throw your helmet, then make them chase you down because you know you're going to get punished.”
They caught up to him, of course, and mobbed Mercer at second base to celebrate the Pirates' 3-2, 11-inning victory Friday against the New York Mets. After the cheering died down, Mercer caught a shaving cream pie in the face from A.J. Burnett.
“It's all worth it,” Mercer said.
Right-handed reliever Gonzalez Germen (0-1) was tagged with the loss in his major league debut. Vin Mazzaro (5-2) tossed one perfect inning for the win.
Andrew McCutchen drew a five-pitch walk to start the 11th. Pedro Alvarez, who homered in the first inning but struck out with a runner on third base in the ninth, struck out as McCutchen stole second.
“Base on balls hurt,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “You walk McCutchen there, you know he's going to steal and be standing at second base.”
Russell Martin was intentionally walked. Gaby Sanchez struck out.
The defense shifted slightly to the left against Mercer, a righty batter. On a 1-1 pitch, Mercer rolled a single up the middle — just beyond the reach of shortstop Omar Quintalla — to score McCutchen.
“I knew that if that ball hit any green grass, Cutch would score,” Mercer said. “That helps your confidence at the plate. As soon as I saw it get past the pitcher, I knew it had a good chance to get through.”
Pirates starter Charlie Morton worked seven innings but could not hold an early 2-0 lead. He gave up two runs on six hits, walked one and struck out four. Ten of the 26 outs Morton got came on grounders.
“He's always going to live by the ground ball,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “If that stops happening, I think we're getting in the wrong lane with him.”
Morton's ground-ball rate could have been better but still was acceptable. What's troubling, though, are the three home runs Morton has served up recently.
On Friday, he gave up a game-tying homer to the Mets' Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
“A sinker in a bad spot, middle-middle,” Morton said. “I wanted to throw it down and away. I ended up throwing it up and in, and it ran back to the middle of the plate.”
The Pirates had four hits after the first inning. The bottom five batters in the lineup went a combined 2 for 21 — although Mercer did provide the final, decisive hit.
One bright spot in the dreary offense has been Jose Tabata, who is batting .382 (13 for 34) in nine games since coming off the disabled list.
With one out in the first inning, Tabata hit a bouncer to the left side. Third baseman David Wright tracked it down and made a good throw, but Tabata beat it out for a single.
Two batters later, Alvarez hammered the first pitch from righty Jeremy Hefner over the center-field wall. The 410-foot homer was Alvarez's 24th of the season and gave the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
“I was trying to go fastball away, and it caught a little more of the plate than I would have liked,” Hefner said. “It was still a decent first pitch, but he's got 24 home runs for a reason.”
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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