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Davis, Pirates stun Diamondbacks behind 9th-inning rally at home

| Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 10:04 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Starling Marte scores the winning run during the ninth inning against the Diamondbacks Tuesday, July 1, 2014, at PNC Park.

Starling Marte looked like he was mad. He said afterward he was upset.

With runners on the corners and one out, trailing by two runs in the ninth inning, Marte swung and missed at two sliders, one badly out of the strike zone. He had swung at too many pitches out of the zone this season. He knew this was a problem. He likely knew what was coming: another breaking pitch.

Marte belted the third straight slider from Addison Reed high off the center field wall at PNC Park for a two-run double that tied the score. Ike Davis followed with a pinch-hit, walk-off single to score Marte and allow the Pirates to steal a 3-2 win Tuesday.

“Oh yeah,” said Marte when asked if he was upset with himself. “I was looking for one pitch low in the zone, and it happened.”

The walk-off win was the Pirates' eighth of the season, a major league best.

Diamondbacks starter Wade Miley was perfect until Jordy Mercer reached on an infield hit with two outs in the fifth inning. Miley didn't allow a hit to go beyond the infield until Russell Martin led off the eighth with a single.

In the ninth, Neil Walker and pinch-hitter Gregory Polanco began the inning with singles and knocked Miley from the game. Miley struck out 10 and walked none over eight-plus innings.

Polanco has energized the Pirates since his June 10 call-up — especially Marte. Since Polanco's arrival, Marte is batting .359.

“It's very good to be behind Polanco because I can see more pitches that they are throwing,” Marte said. “When he is on base, they throw me different because they don't want him going to second base.”

Since May 3, the Pirates (43-40) have the best record in the National League (33-22).

The late-inning drama overshadowed Jeff Locke's fifth straight quality start. Locke delivered one of his best outings as a pro, pitching eight innings for the second time as a major leaguer and the second time this season. Locke also went eight innings June 13 in Miami.

Locke pounded the strike zone with his two-seam fastball, inducing 11 groundouts. Locke walked one, allowed two runs and struck out three.

If Locke continues to pitch like this, he will give the Pirates a difficult decision when Francisco Liriano (oblique) is ready to come off the disabled list.

“His command in a better place than it was last season,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “He's not trying to shave as much. A first-year pitcher … they want to make really good pitches and live on the edges.”

Locke has walked five in 41 innings. Command issues unraveled Locke's season last year when he went from an All-Star appearance to being briefly demoted to the minor leagues in the second half.

“I think when things started to decline last year it was tough to stay focused,” Locke said. “It was almost a maturity thing.”

Locke said he tried to be too perfect last season. This year, he said he is more aggressive attacking the strike zone. He said he is also paying less attention to pregame scouting reports, wanting to go to the mound with a clearer mind. He's also healthy after injuring his back last July.

The Diamondbacks did all their damage against Locke with two outs in the fifth inning when Miguel Montero and Aaron Hill hit back-to-back RBI singles. But Locke limited the damage, allowing for the walk-off theater to continue in the ninth.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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