Pirates score even dozen to chop down Giants
PITTSBURGH – Starling Marte’s precocious talent can sometimes get him in trouble at the plate.
The Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder can be in such a hurry to get on base, his bat tends to get ahead of itself.
A well-timed piece of advice helped him break out of a slump on Wednesday against the San Francisco Giants.
Told by several teammates to wait a beat longer before swinging, Marte slapped a career-high four hits and scored four times as the Pirates pulled away for a 12-8 victory.
“I think you know it goes back to pitch selection, seeing the ball up, trying to maintain discipline throughout the at-bat,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
Something Marte lacked at times during a recent swoon following his scorching start.
Marte began the night in the midst of an 11 for 60 (.183) slump before pecking away at San Francisco’s Barry Zito (4-5).
The 24-year-old leadoff man hardly seemed bothered by a run-in with San Francisco reliever George Kontos on Tuesday night, when Kontos threw behind Marte at one point in apparent retaliation for Pittsburgh’s Tony Watson hitting Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro.
“Whatever happened yesterday was yesterday,” said Marte, who added two stolen bases to push his season total to 20.
“I didn’t think about it. Everybody wants to do their job. The pitchers have to do their job. That’s how I got focused today.”
Marte, Mercer and McCutchen combined to go 8 for 9 against Zito as the Pirates won for the fourth time in their past five games. Neil Walker and Alex Presley both homered for Pittsburgh, which set season highs for runs and hits (18).
“It was a very good night for our offense to show up on a night it was challenging for everybody off the mound,” Hurdle said.
Francisco Liriano (5-2) survived six erratic innings to pick up the win.
Joaquin Arias knocked in three runs for the Giants and Hunter Pence doubled twice but San Francisco continued to struggle on the road. The defending World Series champions have lost 12 of 16 away from home.
Zito (4-5) allowed eight runs and 11 hits in 4 2-3 innings as his road ERA ballooned to 11.28. He is 4-1 with a 1.94 ERA at AT&T Park.
“At home, I’ve caught some breaks and kept stuff done in the zone and I haven’t on the road,” Zito said. “I’ve felt pretty good in some of these starts out on the road, but I just haven’t been able to get people out.”
A night after Pittsburgh lit up San Francisco in an 8-2 win in support of rookie pitcher Gerrit Cole, the Pirates kept it going.
McCutchen hit a two-run double in the third as the Pirates took a 4-1 lead. The Giants responded to briefly tie the game on a two-run double by Arias in the top of the fifth.
It didn’t stay knotted long. Marte and Mercer led off the bottom of the inning with consecutive singles.
Marte scored on a fielder’s choice and Pedro Alvarez chased Zito for good with a double off the wall in right. Walker greeted reliever Jose Mijares with a two-run single and the Pirates were in control.
“The top of the order was really special tonight, the runs, the hits,” Hurdle said. “They just kept fueling us from the first inning through the eighth.”
Pittsburgh’s lead grew to 10-4 after Presley’s pinch-hit homer and an RBI double by Gaby Sanchez, but the Giants hung in there on a night manager Bruce Bochy watched from the clubhouse.
Bochy was suspended one game and reliever George Kontos was suspended three games and fined after Kontos threw at Marte then hit McCutchen in the rear on Tuesday. Kontos was sent down to Triple-A before the suspension was announced.
Bench coach Ron Wotus stepped in for Bochy and pointed to the late surge as evidence the Giants are starting to get things going.
“They prevailed but we at least kept battling and we had a nice little breakout on offense,” Wotus said.
San Francisco pulled within 11-8 after Buster Posey’s two-run single off Watson in the eighth but Sanchez doubled in McCutchen in the bottom of the inning. Closer Jason Grilli worked a perfect ninth in a rare non-save situation.
Liriano lacked the firepower of his past two starts, when he combined for 19 strikeouts. The left-hander struck out just two and walked three while tying his season high with four runs allowed.
NOTES: Walker’s fifth home run of the season was originally ruled a double but overturned when replay showed the ball struck a seat in the first row of left field stands … Cole, who went 6 1-3 innings in his major league debut on Tuesday, will start again on Sunday when the Pirates host the Los Angeles Dodgers. … San Francisco 2B Tony Abreu went 3 for 5 in his first start of the season. Abreu started in place of Scutaro, who is out indefinitely with ligament damage … Bochy said injured 3B Pablo Sandoval had a “hop in his step” the day after being placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained tendon in his left foot. Sandoval was hitting .289 at the time of the injury … Pittsburgh RHP Charlie Morton makes his first start since having Tommy John surgery a year ago on Thursday when he starts in the series finale. Matt Cain (4-3, 5.09) starts for the Giants.