The Pirates completed a sweep of the Giants with a 5-2 victory Wednesday, sticking a potential playoff contender with three losses while moving (at least for now) past the Cubs for second place in the NL Central. Not a bad series, I'd say.
The scoring began in surprising fashion -- Tim Hudson had the Giants' first hit with a ground-rule double in the third, and then Nori Aoki and Joe Panik singled to bring him around. (Jose Tabata came up limping after running into the wall on Hudson's hit, but he stayed in the game.) Aoki then bailed the Pirates out by getting caught stealing third.
The Bucs quickly tied the game with a series of singles in the fourth. Jordy Mercer homered in the fifth to put the Pirates up 2-1, proving for the second consecutive day that if you throw him 85-MPH junk at thigh level, he will destroy it.
That gave Francisco Liriano enough to work with. Liriano didn't whiff double-digit batters like he did in his last two starts, but his slider still generated plenty of key swings and misses. He pitched seven innings, striking out six and surviving errors from Pedro Alvarez (whose defense continues to turn to mush anytime he's required to do anything remotely difficult) and Mercer in the seventh.
With Tony Watson unavailable, the Pirates turned to Jared Hughes in the eighth. Hughes didn't pitch well, giving up a weak single and then two line drives, but the second of those went for a key double play as Angel Pagan smashed the ball right to where Mercer was standing, and the Bucs held their lead.
The Bucs added three runs of insurance in the ninth. Tabata singled with one out, and then Starling Marte pinch-ran and made an immediate impact, swiping second and then heading to third on Andrew Susac's throwing error. Francisco Cervelli then grounded a single through the left side of the infield. Mercer doubled to move Cervelli to third, and then Jung-Ho Kang pinch-hit for Hughes and brought both runners home with a double to the right-center gap. It's great to see the Pirates get so much out of the bottom of their order and their bench.
Mark Melancon (who was available today despite pitching three of the last four games) then sat down, and Rob Scahill entered. Scahill got one out, but then loaded the bases on a series of singles, and Melancon came in after all. Melancon allowed one harmless run to come in on a groundout, but got another easy grounder to first to end it.