Jordy Mercer hit a walk-off double off the right field wall in the 10th inning to give the Pirates a 3-2 win to open their weekend series against the Braves.
Mercer, who's been a bit of a weak link offensively, capped a solid night with the final blow off former Pirate Jason Grilli. Bumped up to the No. 6 spot in the lineup, Mercer went 3-for-5.
Andrew McCutchen led off the bottom of the 10th with a book-rule double. Grilli then intentionally walked Starling Marte and got Pedro Alvarez to strike out looking.
It was a refreshing victory on a number of fronts. It came after a disappointing Cincinnati series which the Pirates lost, two games to one, the final game a 13-inning loss in which the Bucs couldn't push across the winning run mostly against a string of mediocre relievers.
It was good to see the Pirates win in extra innings in general. They've seemed to have some rotten luck in extras this year -- the win bumped them up to 3-7 in extra innings.
It was also nice to see Mercer deliver. He's been the first guy people point to as far as blocking Jung-Ho Kang from playing time, but I think Mercer's defense is important with the team's ground ball-heavy approach. Just avoiding being a black hole on offense is what I'd like to see from Mercer for now. (I'd look more to get Kang some at-bats in place of Gregory Polanco.)
The Pirates had a chance to win it in the ninth, but Kang got caught rounding third too aggressively when Braves third baseman Juan Uribe handled Neil Walker's infield single. The umpires reviewed the play -- it was pretty close, just not close enough to overturn. The Pirates had another baserunning adventure at third during the fourth inning, when Polanco oddly kept going from first to third with Mercer standing on third on a Chris Stewart infield single.
The Braves opened the scoring on a bases-loaded walk by Ryan Lavarnway in the second inning. That was really Francisco Liriano's only bad inning. He started with back-to-back singles and walked another to load the bases for Lavarnway. The Pirates turned three double plays behind Liriano in the first four innings.
The Pirates took the lead, 2-1, on an Alvarez RBI single in the fifth. Braves starter Williams Perez stayed in the game after being hit in the foot by a Josh Harrison comebacker. Perez was clearly not well, though, and he walked Walker and hit McCutchen with a pitch before being pulled. Marte reached on an infield single after a successful challenge by Clint Hurdle, then Alvarez laced a clean single to center against Atlanta lefty Luis Avilan.
The lead was short-lived as Uribe hit a solo homer just over the center field wall in the sixth.
Liriano finished with three strikeouts and three walks, allowing two runs on six hits in seven innings, then the taxed bullpen was fantastic. Jared Hughes needed just 12 pitches to blow through the eighth and ninth innings and Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless 10th, a walk to Jace Peterson the only blemish.
McCutchen finished 2-for-4 with two runs and Alvarez, staying with the struggling-guy theme of the night, had two hits as well.