PITTSBURGH (AP) – Jordy Mercer’s confidence never wavered during another lethargic start at the plate, one that saw him ceding at-bats and playing time to Pittsburgh Pirates rookie teammate Jung Ho Kang.
The streaky shortstop flourished after a bumpy beginning a year ago. He knew if he just kept grinding, things would even out.
“The last couple weeks I’ve been hitting the ball so hard, seeing it so well,” Mercer said. “I’m in a good place.”
Certainly looks like it. Mercer doubled home Andrew McCutchen with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning to lift the Pirates to a 3-2 win over the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.
McCutchen doubled off former teammate Jason Grilli (2-3) leading off the inning and three batters later, Mercer’s third hit of the game smacked off the right-field wall as the Pirates won for just the second time in their last seven games.
“Leadoff guy gets on, sometimes you can create a situation when a leadoff guy gets on,” said Grilli, an All-Star closer for the Pirates in 2013. “I tried to make some pitches and just didn’t (do it).”
Mark Melancon (1-1) pitched a scoreless top of the 10th for Pittsburgh as the Pirates’ bullpen didn’t allow a hit in three innings of relief. Pedro Alvarez added two RBIs for the Pirates.
“We have grown into a team that believes it can get things done,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’ve still got work to do.”
Juan Uribe homered for Atlanta and Eddie Perez had two hits, but the Braves dropped their fourth straight game.
Atlanta’s Williams Perez came in unbeaten and had little trouble until the fifth, when a liner off Josh Harrison’s bat drilled Perez in his right foot. Perez lay on his stomach for several moments while being tended to by trainers.
He opted to stay in the game, but with his plant leg hobbled, his control abandoned him. Perez walked Neil Walker on four pitches, balked Walker to second and then hit McCutchen before leaving.
X-rays on the ankle were negative though Perez was wearing a walking boot after the game as a precaution.
“Things like this happen,” Perez said. “It’s part of the game. I dodged a bullet and I’m hoping to be out there soon.”
Luis Avilan came on to replace Perez, but gave up an infield single to Starling Marte and a flare to center by Alvarez that scored to Walker and McCutchen. The first RBIs off a left-hander by the left-handed Alvarez this season gave Pittsburgh the lead.
It didn’t last long. Uribe took a changeup from Pittsburgh starter Francisco Liriano and sent it out of McCutchen’s reach and over the wall in center field for just his third homer since coming to Atlanta in a trade with the Dodgers a month ago.
Liriano bounced back from a rough outing last Saturday in Washington when he was on the losing end of Max Scherzer’s no-hitter, giving up two runs on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts. He also made it through seven innings, giving the middle of Pittsburgh’s bullpen a needed respite following a heavy workload during the team’s recent dip.
The Pirates ran themselves out of a chance to win the game in the ninth, but had little trouble getting to Grilli, who revived his career with the Pirates from 2011-14. McCutchen jumped on Grilli’s fastball that jumped over the left-field wall for a ground-rule double. Grilli intentionally walked Marte and after Alvarez struck out Mercer’s fly to right kept carrying as McCutchen raced home.
Braves: Atlanta placed RHP Brandon Cunniff on the 15-day disabled list Friday with a right groin strain and recalled RHP Sugar Ray Marimon from Triple-A Gwinnett. Cunniff tweaked the groin in his last appearance against Washington on Thursday. Marimon is 3-2 with a 3.49 ERA in 10 career appearances.
Pirates: Pittsburgh placed RHP Rob Scahill on the 15-day disabled list with right forearm tightness. Scahill (2-4) had given up a run in each of his last two appearances, including the winning home run to Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips in a 5-4, 13-inning loss Thursday night. … Pittsburgh brought up RHP Deolis Guerra from Triple-A Indianapolis and transferred 1B/OF Andrew Lambo to the 60-day disabled list while he recovers from a bout of plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
Braves: Julio Tehran (5-3, 4.67 ERA) starts for Atlanta. Tehran is 2-0 with a 3.29 ERA in five games against Pittsburgh.
Pirates: RHP Charlie Morton will try to bounce back from a nightmarish start last Sunday in Washington, when he gave up nine runs while failing to get out of the first inning, the shortest start of his career. Morton’s ERA ballooned to 3.97 while taking his first loss of the season after winning each of his first five starts in his return from offseason hip surgery.
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