Pirates Ride Huge Third Inning To Victory, Improve To 26-25

MILWAUKEE, WI - JUNE 01: Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates is congratulated as he returns to the dugout after scoring a run during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on June 1, 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Pirates defeated the brewers 8-2. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

A huge third inning -- spurred by a gigantic mistake by former Pirate Nyjer Morgan -- fueled an 8-2 Pirates win in Miller Park Friday night. The Pirates are now above .500, at 26-25.

Morgan hit a solo homer in the bottom of the first to give the Brewers a 1-0 lead, but he ended up giving that back later. Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen led off the third with back-to-back triples. Two batters later, Neil Walker singled to bring home McCutchen, making it 2-1. Then Matt Hague singled, and Rod Barajas hit a grounder for a single to bring home Walker. Then Jordy Mercer walked before Kevin Correia finally made the second out, bringing up Jose Tabata.

A 3-1 deficit would have been bad enough for Randy Wolf and the Brewers, but they should have gotten off the hook there, as Tabata hit a line drive right at Morgan. Tony Plush completely misread it, darting in only to have it fly over his head. That cleared the bases, and the Pirates were up 6-1. (I think I'm still a little sore about Morgan's defense being so hair-pullingly hard to watch when he was in Pittsburgh, even as he was turning up statistically as one of baseball's best outfielders, so it's a lot of fun to see his shenanigans work in the Pirates' favor for once.)

That turned out to be more than enough for Correia, who allowed two home runs while striking out two and walking two, but only allowed those two runs through 5.2 innings. The Pirates tacked on two runs in the eighth on a double by McCutchen.

The Bucs finished with 13 hits and six walks, an impressive offensive display. Tabata, who's been MIA most of the season, reached base four times, and McCutchen, Walker, Hague and Barajas all had two hits apiece.

The Pirates are now three games back of the Reds in the NL Central, and for whatever it's worth, the division currently looks like a three-team race, with the Reds, Cardinals and Bucs clustered within three games of each other and the Brewers, Astros and Cubs all at least six and a half games back. I've said before that I don't think the Pirates are a legitimate contender, but it's June now, and they're still in the race. I'm going to enjoy the heck out of that for as long as it lasts.

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