Brandon Inge hit his way out of a 2-for-32 slump Tuesday night. (Photo by: David Hague)
When we have watched Brandon Inge struggle to reach base so mightily this season, it’s difficult to see that this is the same hitter who has averaged 15 home runs over the last seven seasons. If Inge has a third defining quality beyond solid infield defense and clubhouse leadership, it is his sneaky good power.
Brandon Inge reminded everyone by crushing Joe Saunders’ belt-high fastball over the left-field bullpen at Seattle’s Safeco Field. His three-run homer was his first since August 1 of last year with Oakland, and put the Pirates up 5-0 in the second inning en route to an easy 9-4 victory over the Mariners. Inge’s still-shoddy OPS leaped from .431 to .504 on the season after a double to the gap.
Though Inge’s shot was the most surprising, it was but one of five Pirates’ home runs and 13 hits off Seattle pitching Tuesday night. That was the most home runs the Bucs have hit in one game since 2009, the most on the road since 2007 and the most in a non-Coors Field road ballpark since the seven-homer, 14-0 blowout of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003 at old Busch Stadium.
Starling Marte picked up two of those home runs, his first career multi-homer game. His first came one pitch after the dinger from Inge, then the second was another first-pitch homer on a knee-high fastball from Carter Capps. To further illustrate the volatility of OPS, Marte’s triple and two homers lifted his OPS from .762 to .797 this season.
The other two home runs were provided by Russell Martin (off Joe Saunders, whose 2nd-inning exit was the quickest of any Pirates opponent this year) and Gaby Sanchez. That’s three home runs from the veterans, two from Marte and none from Pedro Alvarez, whose home run streak ends at four straight games.
Locke ‘Em Up
When one writes a game story, one is to focus one’s attention on the unusual and important events that created the victory or the defeat. Therefore, do not consider Jeff Locke’s relegation to the sixth paragraph a slight on his performance. Indeed, Locke could have imploded for five runs and Pittsburgh would have still likely come out with the win.
Locke’s strength was once again in generating weak contact, giving up just four hits and two runs over seven innings. One of those hits was a two-out bloop single RBI in the 2nd inning, which was the only frame in which Locke faced more than four batters. We have probably used the term not-dominant-but-efficient multiple times with regards to a Locke start, and so it was again. He struck out only four Mariners, two of them looking, but strangled the life out of a Seattle lineup that stood little hope of hitting their way out of an early six-run deficit. Locke now trails only the Mets’ Matt Harvey in the NL with a 2.05 season ERA.
Kyle Seager hit a solo homer off Locke in the 6th and Justin Smoak blasted a two-run homer in the 9th to chase Bryan Morris for Seattle’s only extra-base hits.
An important takeaway from this win:
The last time the #Pirates won five consecutive games on the same road trip: 2000.
— Michael Sanserino (@msanserino) June 26, 2013
Plus this one:
Your Pittsburgh Pirates are 17 games over .500 for the first time since September 1992. #RAISEIT
— Forbes to Federal (@ForbesToFederal) June 26, 2013
To close, let’s step away from the history and look at the present. The Pirates are now 47-30, 2.5 games ahead of the Cincinnati Reds and 8.5 games ahead of any other team fighting for a playoff spot. The remain one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals for baseball’s best record, but 8.5 games is a nice cushion for any sort of slump or lull in the dog days of summer.