Harrison's 9th-inning homer lifts Pirates to victory over Marlins
By Rob Biertempfel
Published: Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, 10:15 p.m.
On a night when the Pirates' best power hitter tied the game with a rare triple, it only makes sense that a speed guy would win it with a walk-off homer.
Pedro Alvarez hit a three-bagger to knot the score in the third inning. In the ninth, Josh Harrison smacked his first pinch-hit home run to lift the Pirates a 4-3 victory over the Miami Marlins.
“That's how baseball is funny,” Harrison said. “You never know what to expect. It can definitely go to the extremes.”
Trailing, 3-0, in the third, the Pirates scored three runs with three straight two-out hits off right-hander Henderson Alvarez.
With Starling Marte on first base, Neil Walker singled to right field. Andrew McCutchen drove a two-run double to center field. Pedro Alvarez whipped a liner to center, and McCutchen scored easily as the ball rolled to the wall.
Then came a shocker.
Pedro Alvarez rounded second base — hard. No way he was going to stop.
Over the first 1,641 plate appearances of his career, Alvarez hit three triples. He capped No. 4 with a flourish, arriving an instant before the relay throw and hugging the bag to keep from sliding into foul territory.
“That gets everybody excited,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
The Pirates blew a chance to go ahead in the eighth after loading the bases with nobody out. Alvarez struck out, and Russell Martin bounced into a double play.
In the ninth, with left-hander Mike Dunn (2-3) on the hill, Hurdle needed a pinch hitter for Garrett Jones. Instead of Gaby Sanchez, Hurdle opted for Harrison.
“Speed,” Hurdle explained. “If he gets on, there's a chance to steal a base or put a runner in motion.”
Two pitches into the at-bat, Dunn thought he had Harrison figured out.
“After he fouled off the 1-0 pitch, it looked like his whole approach was away,” Dunn said. “So, I shook to (a) fastball in because I thought I could get in on him. It looked like he was just diving to go away. I made a mistake pitch, belt-high on the outside corner.”
The ball arced toward the Trib Total Media sign in right-center field. Center fielder Giancarlo Stanton gave chase — for a moment.
“I knew it had a chance,” Harrison said. “Off the bat, I was running and watching Stanton's reaction. I knew he wasn't going to catch it. When I saw him pull up and it didn't kick back, I knew it was gone.”
It was the Pirates' third pinch-hit homer of the season.
Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke worked 52⁄3 innings, allowed three runs, nine hits and three walks and got a no-decision. He threw first-pitch strikes to just 11 of 28 batters and faced seven three-ball counts.
Locke's 4.03 ERA in four starts since the All-Star break is nearly double what it was in the first half of the season (2.15). Yet, before the game, Hurdle insisted the rising numbers are not cause for alarm.
“We don't have the same concern (level) as everybody else,” Hurdle said. “I think the hitters have slowed down the game a little bit, and he hasn't been as sharp. A few more balls left over the plate, maybe (hitters are) not chasing balls just off the plate.”
Locke gave up eight hits through the first three innings as the Marlins built a 3-0 lead.
“I'm so happy we won that game,” Locke said. “When you're not at your best out there, it just goes to show you do have the team behind you all the time. You know these guys are going to fight until the end.”
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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