MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Jung Ho-Kang is enjoying the spotlight in the major leagues and showing the Pittsburgh Pirates just what they hoped when they brought him over from South Korea.
Kang hit a tiebreaking home run off the facing of the second deck in left-center field in the ninth inning, lifting Pittsburgh over the Minnesota Twins 8-7 on Tuesday night.
Kang’s sixth home run of the season, a drive off All-Star closer Glen Perkins (0-3), sent Pittsburgh to its fourth win in five games.
“Always enjoyed the situations like this ever since I play in Korea,” Kang said through an interpreter.
Kang has hit two of his six home runs in the ninth inning in his first season after the Pirates signed the infielder to a four-year, $11 million contract in the offseason. He hit a game-tying home run off St. Louis closer Trevor Rosenthal on May 3.
“I think my focus goes up towards the end of the game because when it comes to a tighter game like this, you really get a whole other level of focus,” Kang said.
Kang had two hits, scored two runs and was hit by a pitch. He is hitting .441 in his last nine games in helping Pittsburgh overcome injuries to third baseman Josh Harrison and shortstop Jordy Mercer.
“He continues to grow, he’s doing things here he’s probably done before in some sequence or context, just a different place now,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Sometimes it’s closers he’s facing, but that’s a dynamic swing off one of the best closers in the game.”
Perkins has allowed runs in three of four post-All-Star break appearances, blowing two saves after converting his first 28 chances.
Perkins has allowed six runs in his last four outings and showed his frustration after the game.
“How many games did I throw in the first half, 40? And I think I threw well in like 38 or 39 of them,” Perkins said. “Bad games are going to happen. I’ve been saying that all year long.”
He said it’s unfortunate the blown saves came in such a short period.
“But, can’t do anything other than continue to go out and try to make pitches,” he said.
Pittsburgh All-Star closer, Mark Melancon (2-1) hasn’t allowed a run in his last 32 appearances. He retired five batters after the Twins tied the game with a four-run rally in the eighth.
“Melancon did have the walk, but we know this team,” Hurdle said. “They’re aggressive early in the count and you get the ball in some spots, you can get some quick outs, you miss some spots, they can do some damage. Melancon was fantastic tonight, just fantastic.”
Francisco Cervelli added three hits for Pittsburgh and starter Charlie Morton allowed three runs, six hits and four walks in 5 2-3 innings.
Mike Pelfrey gave up three runs – two earned – and five hits in 5 1-3 innings for Minnesota.
With the victory, Pittsburgh owns the most interleague wins of any team this season. The Pirates are 12-7 against the AL, which includes a 7-2 record on the road.
Pirates: LF Starling Marte was a late scratch from the starting lineup because he felt ill. … Mercer (knee) was on the field before the game fielding grounders for the first time since he was placed on the DL on July 20 with a sprained knee.
Twins: GM Terry Ryan said OF Byron Buxton should return to on-field workouts by the end of the week. Buxton has been out since June 25 with a left thumb sprain and Ryan said he’s progressed to swinging a bat. Buxton will see some work on the field before being sent to Florida for a rehab assignment.
Former Twins LHP Francisco Liriano (6-6) starts for Pittsburgh. Liriano has gone 5-2 with a 2.10 ERA and 84 strikeouts in his last 11 starts since allowing a season-high seven runs to Minnesota on May 19. Minnesota counters with RHP Ervin Santana (2-0), who hasn’t allowed a run in his last two starts spanning 15 2-3 innings.
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