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AAA call-up Jordy Mercer leads Pirates past Nationals

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH - Jordy Mercer was ready to walk across the street from PNC Park to his hotel room and get a good night's sleep.

Just a few hours after being called up from the minor leagues to cap a hectic 48 hours, the infielder hit a two-run home run Friday night to lift the Pirates to a 3-1 victory over the Washington Nationals at PNC Park.

Mercer was recalled from Class AAA Indianapolis earlier Friday when the Pirates placed second baseman Neil Walker on the 15-day disabled list with a lacerated right hand. Mercer had flown from Indianapolis to Allentown, Pa., a day earlier for the start of a series against Lehigh Valley in the International League then hustled to the airport for a flight to Pittsburgh.

"It's been crazy but it's been fun," Mercer said. "But I'm ready for bed now."

The Pirates (17-12) won for the fourth time in six games and handed the Nationals (15-15) their fourth loss in six games.

Mercer put Pittsburgh ahead 3-1 in the fifth inning with a two-out, two-run home run into the first row of the left-field bleachers off Ross Detwiler (1-3). Mercer played in 42 games with the Pirates last season as a rookie.

"I am just as excited to be here as last year, but I don't have the nerves this time," Mercer said. "I felt a lot more comfortable when I walked in this clubhouse. It was nice to get a chance to play and even nicer to contribute to a win."

Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen beat up on Washington once again by going 3-for-4 with a home run. The All-Star center fielder is hitting .456 (41-for-90) with 10 homers and 22 RBIs in 24 career games against the Nationals and also 6-for-6 against Washington left-hander Ross Detwiler.

Starling Marte and Gaby Sanchez added two hits for the Pirates. Marte is 15-for-43 (.349) in his last 10 games.

A.J. Burnett (3-2) was dominant in winning his third straight start, allowing only one run and five hits in seven innings with one walk and nine strikeouts. He has a 1.80 in his last three starts after going 0-2 with a 3.71 ERA in his first three.

He leads the National League with 57 strikeouts and is one off the major-league lead of 58 by Texas' Yu Darvish.

"Darvish might be hard to keep up with because he's filthy," Burnett said with a smile. "Strikeouts are nice and it's always good to put people away but my focus is on getting outs. You're not always going to strike a lot of guys out so you can't rely on them all the time."

Mark Melancon worked a scoreless eighth inning, holding a 3-1 lead by escaping a first-and-third when he struck out Bryce Harper.

"That's good stuff right there, a matchup like Melancon and Harper," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's why you come out to the ballpark."

Jason Grilli earned his 12th save in as many opportunities, striking out the side and working around a one-out single by Adam LaRoche.

The Nationals struck out a total of 14 times.

"We were going up against some nasty pitchers who strike guys out," LaRoche said. "Burnett's fastball kept coming back over the plate and he got a lot of called third strikes on it."

LaRoche had two hits after going 2-for-38 in his previous 11 games.

Detwiler (1-3) gave up three runs in five innings, allowing six hits and two walks while striking out five.

McCutchen hit his fourth home run of the season with two outs in the second inning to open the scoring.

The Nationals tied it 1-1 in the fourth as slumping Danny Esponisa hit an RBI single to right field. The second baseman had been 1-for-21 in his previous nine games, dropping his batting average to .173. He was benched for the previous two games by manager Davey Johnson.

"It's good to see Danny knock in a run," Johnson said. "He has such a high ceiling. I want him to realize that he's capable of accomplishing so much more."

NOTES: Washington activated third baseman Ryan Zimmerman from the 15-day disabled list before the game, and he batted cleanup. Third baseman Anthony Rendon was optioned to Double-A Harrisburg. Zimmerman had been out since April 18 with a strained left hamstring. ... Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth sat out with a strained left hamstring and will likely miss the entire three-game series. Werth returned to the lineup Thursday at Atlanta after missing two games but left in the fifth inning. ... Pittsburgh selected the contract of right-handed reliever Jose Contreras from Indianapolis and optioned right-handed reliever Jared Hughes to the same club. ... Walker is expected to be activated May 12, the first day he is eligible since the move is retroactive to April 27. ... Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton was removed from his rehab start with Indianapolis after three innings on Friday night because of shoulder inflammation and will be re-evaluated Saturday in Pittsburgh. Morton is trying to come back from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery performed last June. ... Pirates right-hander Jeff Karstens, who has been out all season with right shoulder inflammation, pitched a two-inning simulated game Friday and will likely be sent to extended spring training in Bradenton, Fla., on Sunday or Monday. ... Stephen Strasburg (1-4, 3.13) will start for Washington on Saturday afternoon against left-hander Jeff Locke (3-1, 2.83).
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