Baseball / Sports

Mercer's 11th-inning, walk-off double helps Pirates edge Rockies, 3-2

PITTSBURGH -- Jordy Mercer's walk-off double in the 11th gave the Pirates a 3-2 win against the Colorado Rockies at PNC Park Saturday night.

Neil Walker led off the bottom of the 11th with a single. Hurdle sent Chris Stewart, the backup catcher, to bunt Walker over, and Rockies reliever Chad Bettis intentionally walked Pedro Alvarez with first base open.

Mercer doubled to the gap in left-center, scoring Walker.

Jared Hughes hit Charlie Culberson to start the 11th. DJ LeMahieu bunted Culberson to second. Pinch-hitter Drew Stubbs grounded to third. Pedro Alvarez dived and stopped the ball, but had no play, and the Rockies had runners on the corners.

Charlie Blackmon drove a liner right at Hughes, but Hughes snagged it, doubled Culberson off third and the inning was over.

The Rockies' bullpen let the Pirates tie the game in the eighth. Lefty Rex Brothers completed his task, retiring Gregory Polanco to start the bottom of the eighth with the Rockies leading 2-1, and left. In came Adam Ottavino, who contributed to the blown lead Friday night. He promptly walked Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen.

Russell Martin fell behind 0-2, worked the count full and grounded to short. Harrison and McCutchen were running on the 3-2 pitch, ensuring Harrison reached third, and he doubled back to the bag in time to avoid the throw.

Neil Walker singled to right, scoring the tying run. McCutchen tried to score from second, but a strong throw from Carlos Gonzalez nabbed him at the plate. A 32-second crew chief review confirmed that Rule 7.13, governing blocking the plate, was not violated. Pinch-hitter Travis Snider struck out to end the inning.

The Pirates held a 1-0 lead, thanks to Charlie Morton's strong start, until the seventh. Nolan Arenado doubled to right-center field to start the seventh. Morton threw four consecutive curveballs to Carlos Gonzalez and worked his way to a 2-2 count. Gonzalez fouled off a fastball. Morton threw another curveball, but hung it, and Gonzalez smoked it into the seats in right field, giving the Rockies a 2-1 lead.

Morton carried a 2.77 ERA during his previous four starts into Saturday's outing and held opposing hitters to a .178 average in that span. He struck out 27 in 26 innings. In each of his previous seven starts, Morton finished at least six innings.

Improved location of his two-seam fastball inside to lefties and better command of a sweeping curveball have helped Morton reverse his struggles with left-handed batters. From 2011-13, lefties hit .336 with a .429 on-base percentage. This year, they hit .221 with a .315 on-base percentage -- worse than right-handers.

Other than Gonzalez's pop-out to Neil Walker in the fourth, Morton didn't allow a ball out of the infield until Corey Dickerson's line-drive single to start the fifth. The Pirates turned two double plays and he got seven outs via a ground ball in the first five innings. Dickerson also had the only hit through four innings, a bunt single.

The Pirates' defense aided Morton after Dickerson reached in the fifth. McCutchen made a sliding catch in left-center field to rob Wilin Rosario of a line-drive hit and Martin threw out Dickerson stealing second.

Blackmon singled with two outs in the sixth and stole second, but Hurdle challenged the call. The umpires in the replay command center needed only 26 seconds to determine that Martin's throw beat Blackmon, and the inning was over.

Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, their cleanup hitter and a National League Most Valuable Player candidate this season, left the game in the fourth inning. He pulled up and grabbed his upper left quadriceps while running out a grounder, and the Rockies later announced that he had a cramp in his thigh.

Neil Walker doubled to left field to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning. Gaby Sanchez bounced a double over the left-field wall, scoring Walker and giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead.

(c)2014 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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