Pirates use fast start, Walker's hot bat to beat Marlins
MIAMI — Clint Hurdle fielded questions Saturday about what kind of external options might be available to improve his club's ailing offense as the clock ticked down to next week's trade deadline. But the Pirates manager knew any significant spike in offensive performance likely would have to come internally.
Prior to a 7-4 win over the Marlins, Hurdle noted there were “four or five” Pirates batters who continued to perform below career levels of performance, including second baseman Neil Walker.
“We need more from him,” Hurdle said.
The Pirates received more from Walker on Saturday night.
Walker rifled line drives all over the field at spacious Marlins Park during a 3-for-5, two-RBI night.
After Starling Marte led off the game with a double, Walker slashed a double down the left-field line off Marlins starter Tom Koehler to better the Pirates' offensive output from all of Friday. Walker lined a sharp single to center in the third and turned on a Ryan Webb 82 mph slider in the sixth, sending a laser of a double down the right-field line, again scoring Marte to give the Pirates a valuable insurance run and a 6-4 lead.
Even Walker's outs offered encouraging sound: they were loud. Walker flied out to deep left in the fourth, and deep center in the eighth, against Marlins lefty Dan Jennings.
“Nights like tonight are where I'm at my best,” Walker said. “I'm hitting the ball on a line not trying to do too much. I'm not trying to create power or more than what I'm capable of doing.”
If Walker can author a second-half rebound — he entered hitting .237, 40 points below his career average — it would be the equivalent of the Pirates engineering a trade.
“I think so. It's no secret that there have been a few of us, numbers-wise, that haven't done what we've done in the past,” Walker said. “If my numbers improve, in my opinion, the team is going to get better.”
Perhaps such a bounce-back starts with health. Walker has dealt with several injuries this season, including an oblique strain, which led to a trip to the disabled list earlier this month. He was activated Tuesday.
But the Pirates have other health issues.
Backup catcher Michael McKenry — playing for an injured Russell Martin — entered batting .191 and had a career high four-hits. The Pirates produced 14 hits as a team Saturday. But McKenry “tweaked” his left knee sliding into second base, according to Hurdle, who said he would discuss the situation with general manager Neal Huntington after the game. The Pirates might be forced to recall catcher Tony Sanchez.
Timely hitting often has been absent from the Pirates' lineup, though that too improved Saturday. The Pirates recorded three hits with runners in scoring position in the first inning: a Garrett Jones double scored Walker, and a McKenry single scored Jones.
The Pirates had not had three hits with runners in scoring position since July 10.
In the third, Jones again plated Walker with an RBI single, and McKenry batted in Pedro Alvarez with a single for a 5-1 lead.
The Pirates needed the scoring, as starter Charlie Morton failed to post a third consecutive quality start.
Morton allowed three runs and five hits in the third, including an RBI double to Giancarlo Stanton and RBI singles to Logan Morrison, who batted in Stanton, and Jake Marisnick, who scored Morrison, cutting the Pirates' lead to 5-4.
Morton's velocity was sound, sitting 91 to 94 mph with his two-seam fastball, but his command was inconsistent. Morton allowed nine hits and four runs — three earned — over five innings, He did not walk a batter and struck out six.
“There are things I'd love to have back in terms of command execution,” Morton said. “Stuff was average.”
Justin Wilson, Bryan Morris and Tony Watson combined for three shutout innings, and Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless ninth for the save.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Tomlin: Steelers were prepared for Bryant suspension as far back as draft
- Pirates make 6 September call-ups
- Woman commits suicide in North Braddock police holding cell
- Casey, Coons become 32nd, 33rd senators to back nuclear deal with Iran
- Two wild-card format hurting Pirates in short term
- Steelers notebook: LB Harrison believes Goodell will prevail in Brady ruling
- TE Breneman not listed on Penn State’s depth chart
- PennDOT revises Parkway West closure schedule
- Bankruptcy judge urges Conneaut Lake creditors, trustees to make a deal
- Washington County man killed in tractor accident
- Bryant suspension opens doors for other Steelers’ receivers