Red-hot McCutchen carries Bucs
MIAMI – Boosted by a torrid stretch at the plate, the Pittsburgh Pirates have returned to .500 again. Judging by the hitting and pitching they got Saturday, they could have a winning record soon.
Andrew McCutchen hit a three-run homer and Jody Mercer also went deep, leading the Pirates to an 8-6 victory over the Miami Marlins.
Josh Harrison and Chris Stewart had three hits apiece, and the Pirates finished with 18 overall in their sixth consecutive game in double digits. Touted rookie Gregory Polanco had two hits and two RBI.
“When you put people on base, you can do a lot,” McCutchen said. “Getting on the board first definitely helps us. We’ve got a lot of guys swinging the bat, basically from one to nine.”
The Pirates (34-34) have won four straight and five of six to get back to .500 for the first time since they were 8-8 following a victory over Milwaukee on April 17.
“You believe in the talent and you believe in the guys on the team,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “You just dig in and you go. These guys have been resilient in challenging times.”
Pittsburgh right-hander Charlie Morton (4-7) pitched seven effective innings for his third consecutive win. He allowed two runs and five hits to improve to 4-1 with a 2.40 ERA in his last five starts.
“It’s nothing special, nothing different,” Morton said. “I just go out there and do my job.”
Marcell Ozuna and Jeff Baker each hit a two-run homer for Miami in the ninth. Jason Grilli then replaced Stolmy Pimentel and allowed a single to Rafael Furcal before retiring Chris Johnson for his 10th save in 13 opportunities.
In the series opener Friday, the Pirates a squandered a 6-2 lead in the ninth and needed 13 innings for an 8-6 win.
“It’s nice to get a win though,” Mercer said. “That’s all that matters. As long as we’re on top in the end with the third out, we’ll take it.”
Mercer hit a leadoff home in the second and McCutchen connected in the fourth, making it 5-0 with a drive to left for his 11th of the season.
McCutchen extended his hitting streak to 10 games. He is hitting .439 (18-for-41) in June.
“I’m just getting pitches to hit and I’m hitting them,” he said.
Marlins starter Randy Wolf (1-3) allowed five runs and nine hits in four innings.
“It was embarrassingly bad,” Wolf said. “It’s frustrating to physically feel fine but not have command of your pitches. The only thing you can do is get better, but, right now, it’s frustrating.”
McCutchen also made a sliding catch to rob Furcal of a base hit in the fifth. Furcal is 1 for 11 since rejoining the Marlins on Friday from hamstring and groin injuries that sidelined him for the team’s first 65 games.
Ozuna had a run-scoring triple in Miami’s two-run fourth, but Pittsburgh added three more in the fifth. Mercer doubled home a run against Kevin Slowey, an Upper St. Clair graduate, and Morton helped himself with a run-scoring sacrifice squeeze. Polanco added a run-scoring single for an 8-2 lead.
“Give our offense credit for coming back there at the end,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “It continues to show the character of our guys – they don’t quit.”
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