Mercer, Harrison power Pirates past Cubs, 5-3
CHICAGO — Jordy Mercer stayed hot. Josh Harrison rediscovered his mojo. They each hit a home run Saturday to power the Pirates past the Chicago Cubs, 5-3.
Mercer had a pair of hits, including a solo home run in the third inning.
This month, Mercer is batting .306 (22 for 72), including seven extra-base hits, and has driven in 13 runs.
Mercer hit one home run in his first 146 at-bats this season. In 72 at-bats in June, he's gone deep five times.
“Just trying to find a groove and stay consistent,” Mercer said. “I think I'm in a pretty good place right now, and I'm trying to stay with it.”
Harrison was hitless in 13 straight at-bats until the fifth inning, when he delivered an RBI single. In the seventh, he smacked a two-run homer. Harrison rolled his left ankle again while taking a swing in the fourth inning.
“It's fine,” Harrison said. “We had it taped up.”
Right-hander Vance Worley (1-0) picked up his first victory in the majors since May 11, 2013, when he was with the Minnesota Twins. He beat a National League club for the first time since Aug. 1, 2012, when he pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Worley worked 6 2⁄3 innings and allowed three runs on five hits. He walked one and struck out four.
“He was sharper (in his Pirates debut) in Miami, but it's a good body of work,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Very efficient. A lot of first-pitch strikes, 20 out of 26. Retired 15 hitters on three pitches or less. Pounded the strike zone. He gave us a real good effort.”
Mark Melancon got his 11th save, his first since replacing Jason Grilli in the closer's role.
The Pirates got a scare in the fourth inning when Andrew McCutchen was shaken up while stealing second base. As second baseman Darwin Barney tried to make the tag, his left arm smacked off McCutchen's head.
Dazed, McCutchen stayed on his knees for minute or so as the athletic trainer checked on him. McCutchen did not leave the game.
Worley retired the first nine batters he faced. It's just the fourth time a Pirates starting pitcher has done that this season.
“I was just staying down in the zone,” Worley said. “I wasn't trying to overpower the ball at all.”
Chris Coghlan broke the string with a leadoff single in the fourth. With one out, Anthony Rizzo punished a 1-1 curveball for a two-run homer to right.
Mercer singled leading off the fifth. With two outs, Gregory Polanco laid off a tempting, full-count fastball for ball four — a very solid and unselfish at-bat by the rookie against Travis Wood, a tough lefty pitcher.
Harrison bounced a game-tying single up the middle. McCutchen lined an RBI single to center, giving the Pirates a 3-2 lead and knocking Wood (7-6) out of the game.
Barney began the bottom of the inning with a double that whizzed inches over Mercer's outstretched arm into center field. Barney slid into the bag an instant ahead of Mercer's tag.
With one out, Barney went to third on Ryan Sweeney's grounder. Coghlan hit a high-bouncer up the middle, but Worley leaped up to spear it and threw him out.
“That was very athletic, right? “ Worley said with a laugh. “That was a base hit, for sure. I don't know how I got that thing.”
With some help from a replay review, which overturned the original out call, Polanco legged out an infield single with two outs in the seventh. That extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
“From my point of view, I knew he was safe,” said Harrison, who watched the play unfold from the on-deck circle.
Harrison hit an 0-1 pitch into the right field seats to make it 5-2.
Eli Whiteside hit an RBI double with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Jared Hughes replaced Worley and got pinch-hitter Nate Schierholtz to fly out on the first pitch.
Hughes has stranded all 15 of his inherited baserunners this season.
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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