Pirates beat up Blue Jays' bullpen, rally for win

Pirates second baseman Neil Walker doubles in the go-ahead runs during the eighth inning against the Blue Jays on Saturday, May 3, 2014, at PNC Park.
Pirates second baseman Neil Walker doubles in the go-ahead runs during the eighth inning against the Blue Jays on Saturday, May 3, 2014, at PNC Park.
Photo by Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Rob Biertempfel
| Saturday, May 3, 2014, 10:30 p.m.

The Pirates overcame four errors and another blah outing from one of their starting pitchers Saturday and rallied past the Toronto Blue Jays, 8-6.

After falling behind by five runs in the fourth inning, the Pirates tied it at 6-6 with a four-run seventh. The big blows were Josh Harrison's run-scoring double and a pinch-hit, two-run double by Jordy Mercer off left-handed reliever Aaron Loup.

Mercer broke his 0-for-25 skid with the hit, which flew over the head of center fielder Colby Rasmus.

“You live for those chances to help the team get a win,” Mercer said. “I know everybody here has my back, so I don't think it's a confidence issue. We've been battling late (in games), and it's fun.”

In the eighth, Neil Walker ripped a game-winning, two-run double off the center-field wall. It was the second straight game the Pirates bullied the Blue Jays' wobbly bullpen.

“It's resiliency,” Walker said. “We didn't play great defense. We didn't pitch real well, but somehow we found a way to win in the end. It doesn't always have to be pretty.”

The comeback marked only the third time this season the Pirates have won back-to-back games. They have yet to win three in a row.

Those win streaks would be longer if the Pirates were getting better results from their starting rotation.

Left-hander Francisco Liriano did not make it through the fourth inning, his second straight short outing. The Pirates, who brought up two fresh relievers from Triple-A Indianapolis before the game, sent five pitchers to the mound after Liriano left.

Liriano leads the team with seven starts this season, but he has yet to notch a victory.

Through 30 games, Pirates starting pitchers have managed only three wins: two by Gerrit Cole and one by Edinson Volquez. It's the lowest total in the major leagues.

“That's a low number, no doubt about it,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “All they can do is go out and pitch. There's a lot of things they can't control, and we encourage them not to get hung up on that.”

But it's more than just wins. Among National League rotations, the Pirates are next-to-last with a 4.42 ERA. They have thrown the most wild pitches (11), rank among the lower half of the league in innings pitched, are issuing 2.8 walks per nine innings and have a so-so .255 batting average against.

On April 26, Liriano tossed two scoreless innings against the Cardinals before leaving with what the team said was dizziness and flu-like symptoms. Liriano blamed the dizziness on a nosebleed.

Saturday, Liriano worked 3 23 innings and gave up five runs (four earned) on six hits. His ERA jumped more than a half-point to 4.54.

“I missed my spots and started getting behind in the count,” Liriano said. “I don't know why, but the whole changed (in the fourth). Physically, I feel great.”

The Blue Jays scored four runs to take a 5-0 lead in the fourth. Liriano was knocked out of the game when he walked Melky Cabrera with the bases loaded.

“He was giving everything he had,” Hurdle said of Liriano. “But I didn't see the momentum happening.”

The Pirates struggled against R.A. Dickey's knuckleballs in the first three innings then broke through in the fourth. Pedro Alvarez singled and scored on a wild pitch. Gaby Sanchez walked and scored on Clint Barmes' ground out.

Jose Bautista hit a solo homer in the sixth off Vin Mazzaro. It was Bautista's 23rd career home run at PNC Park.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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