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Gregory Polanco homers twice in Pirates' 4-2 win

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Gregory Polanco homered twice as the Pirates notched a July 4 win against the Cardinals, 4-2.

There was some Twitter drama this afternoon about how long the Pirates left Jon Niese in the game, but it didn't come to much, as Niese got through 5.2 innings and only allowed one run before being yanked. Niese also struck out three and walked just one. He did, however, induce a ton of hard contact, and was fortunate that a bunch of the Cardinals' line drives went right to Pirates hitters.

The Bucs' real stars tonight were Polanco and John Jaso. Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez was scoreless through the first five innings, with Niese annoyingly hitting into a double play to leave the bases loaded in the fifth. But Jaso and Polanco would take care of that the following inning. Jaso led off with a double -- on a genuinely hard-hit ball -- and Polanco followed with a homer to right to put the Pirates up 2-1.

Jaso was again in the middle of things as the Pirates tacked on an insurance run in the seventh. Jordy Mercer led off with a single and moved up on a groundout, and Jaso hit a clutch single up the middle to put the Bucs up 3-1. (He did get thrown out at second, although I thought he was taking a reasonable risk in trying to advance with two outs.)

In the eighth, Polanco led off against Seth Maness and knocked an opposite-field line drive for his second homer of the day and 12th of the season. It was a remarkable performance for Polanco, who still appeared hobbled by his recent leg discomfort.

The Bucs' bullpen took over in the late innings, performing as it typically has lately despite Clint Hurdle's pregame proclamation that several key relievers would be unavailable. Arquimedes Caminero got through and inning and a third, and then Juan Nicasio pitched a remarkable eighth inning, striking out the side on the minimum nine pitches. Nicasio also got one out and issued a walk in the ninth before giving way to Neftali Feliz, who allowed a double to Matt Carpenter. That would be all, though, and the Bucs closed out a 4-2 victory.

The win was the Pirates' fifth in a row. They're now back above .500 for the first time since June 15.