The top third of the Pirates’ lineup demolished Giants left-hander Barry Zito, going 8-for-9 with six runs and three RBI, leading the Bucs to a season-high 12 runs in Wednesday night’s victory at PNC Park.
Starling Marte hit four singles, stole two bases and scored four runs. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
For the second night in a row, Pittsburgh (39-26) hitters rattled a former Cy Young winner and forced him to exit during the 5th inning. The Pirates collected 11 hits and eight runs off Zito. Their 18 total hits were the most since June 29 of last year, led by Starling Marte’s first career four-hit game, scoring four runs in the 12-8 victory.
All the runs supported Pirates starter Francisco Liriano, who had his worst home outing (6 innings, 8 hits, 4 runs, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts) over his short time wearing black and yellow. The Giants (33-31) scratched across a run apiece in the 1st and 4th innings. Then in the 5th, Liriano gave up back-to-back singles to Andres Torres and Tony Abreu, the tying run. The left-hander struck out Buster Posey looking for the second out but then walked Hunter Pence, perhaps pitching around him. The walk backfired when Joaquin Arias line a 2-0 pitch into center field to tie the game.
The Pirates offense bailed out Liriano to get him the victory. It answered the Giants’ 1st-inning run (a Hunter Pence RBI double) by starting the Bottom 1st with three straight hits, finished off by Andrew McCutchen’s line-drive RBI single to left. The top of the lineup struck again in the 3rd: Starling Marte single, Jordy Mercer single, McCutchen two-run double to left field. Gaby Sanchez singled, then McCutchen scored on a ground-ball double play to put the Pirates up 4-1.
After the Giants re-set the score in the Top 5th, the Pirates answered emphatically. Marte and Mercer singled to start the inning and make the top third of the order 8-for-8 at that point. Zito struck out McCutchen looking but walked Sanchez. Marte scored the go-ahead run when Russell Martin hit a ball that short-hopped first baseman Brandon Belt. Pedro Alvarez followed up by hitting an RBI double and Neil Walker knocked in two more runs. The Bucs led 8-4 off the four-run frame, then went up 10-4 the next inning with an Alex Presley pinch-hit solo home run and Gaby Sanchez RBI double off reliever Ramon Ramirez.
Mercer, McCutchen and Sanchez each notched three hits, with McCutchen and Walker tying for a team-high three RBI.
San Francisco would not go softly, though. Reliever Justin Wilson allowed two one-out singles to Abreu and Posey, and Abreu scored when Jordy Mercer threw away a possible inning-ending double play. Arias then knocked an RBI single to right field and suddenly it was 10-6. Walker got one back immediately by leading off with a home run just over the right-field wall, originally ruled a double before video review.
The Pirates bullpen continued to hiccup with Tony Watson in the 8th. Brandon Crawford led off with a single after grounding into two double plays against Liriano. Watson got pinch-hitter Gregor Blanco to fly out and Torres to ground out, but Abreu doubled for his third hit and Posey cut the Pittsburgh lead to 11-8 by blooping a two-run single. The Giants ended up with 15 hits, including seven total off Wilson and Watson.
Closer Jason Grilli entered in a non-save situation after Andrew McCutchen scored an insurance run. He retired Arias, Belt and pinch-hitter Nick Noonan 1-2-3 to complete the contest in front of 19,966 fans. The win puts the Pirates 4.0 games ahead of the Colorado Rockies and 5.5 ahead of the Giants in the still-shaping-up race for the second Wild Card berth.