Mercer comes through in clutch, Pirates win sixth straight

Scott Johnson, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SEATTLE -- Jordy Mercer likes to think of himself as a clutch hitter, so the Pittsburgh Pirates' shortstop was more than ready when the Seattle Mariners decided to pitch to him after intentionally walking Travis Snider with two outs in the top of the ninth inning Wednesday.
Mercer didn't disappoint, hitting an RBI single off Mariners reliever Yoervis Medina to put the Pirates ahead to stay on the way to a 4-2 win -- Pittsburgh's sixth in a row.
"I've been doing that since I got into pro ball," Mercer said of delivering the clutch hit. "I guess I have a knack for coming up with big hits in big spots."
Mercer's two-out single and an off-target throw from Mariners center fielder Endy Chavez brought in Pedro Alvarez from second base for a 3-2 lead. Snider scored on a wild pitch to add an insurance run.
After driving in the game-winning run, Mercer said he was motivated by Snider's intentional walk.
"It proves you're the guy they want up there," he said, "and I'm the guy who wants to be up in that situation. It works out. They want me, so I want to bat."
The Pirates (48-30) have now won seven of their last eight games while Seattle dropped to 3-7 over its last 10 games.
Seattle starter Felix Hernandez had a typically strong outing but gave up a two-run homer in the fourth and didn't factor in the decision. Hernandez went seven innings, allowing two runs off six hits while striking out 11.
Manager Eric Wedge was encouraged to see Hernandez bounce back from his last start, a five-inning performance that saw him give up 12 hits and seven runs.
"He got deep in the ball game for us," Wedge said after Wednesday's game. "Good fastball, good changeup. That's a pretty good hitting team over there (the Pirates). It was good to see him bounce back."
Mariners reliever Charlie Furbush (1-4) took the loss, while Pittsburgh's Vin Mazzaro (4-2) pitched two scoreless innings to earn the win.
Mark Melancon earned his second save of the season despite giving up two runs in the ninth. Pinch hitter Mike Zunino singled, then moved to third on a two-out single from Nick Franklin before Melancon got Kyle Seager to ground out to end the game.
The Mariners (34-45) stranded runners on first and second in the eighth inning as well, with Mazzaro striking out Justin Smoak and inducing a Michael Saunders to fly out to keep the score tied 2-2 entering the ninth.
"They got the two-out hit, we didn't -- game over, that's it," said Wedge, whose team had eight hits but left 10 runners on base. "We've got to hit better. ... I'm tired of even talking about (Seattle's offensive struggles)."
The Pirates struck first on Neil Walker's two-run homer off Hernandez in the fourth inning.
Seattle got one run back in the bottom of the inning with the help of an error by Mercer, which allowed Raul Ibanez to go from first to third on a grounder to first. Ibanez eventually scored on a Michael Saunders' sacrifice fly, pulling the Mariners within 2-1.
Pittsburgh starter Jeanmar Gomez, a 25-year-old Venezuelan who was activated from the disabled list before Wednesday's start, actually outdueled countryman Hernandez for five innings but didn't make it to the sixth. He allowed three hits and an unearned run while striking out five before Justin Wilson relieved to start the sixth with Pittsburgh clinging to a 2-1 lead.
"I felt pretty good," Gomez said after his first Major League start since June 2. "My arm was really good."
The Mariners' Ibanez tied the score 2-2 when he took Wilson deep with one out in the sixth, giving the 41-year-old outfielder 18 home runs on the season and nine in the month of June. Ibanez has hit four home runs in Seattle's past four games, dating to Saturday night.
Ibanez looked like he might have a chance to play the part of hero when he stepped to the plate with one out and a runner on second base in the eighth inning, but Mazzaro intentionally walked him with the score still tied 2-2.
Pittsburgh's Alvarez led off the ninth with a single off Furbush then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. After a Gaby Sanchez groundout, Snider, a Seattle native, was intentionally walked.
Mercer made the Mariners pay with his RBI single, giving the Pirates a 3-2 lead. Snider then scored from third on a Medina wild pitch to put the Mariners in a 4-2 hole heading into the bottom of the ninth.
The game started with roof open under sunny skies, but a sudden-but-steady rain that came on in the top of the fourth inning forced the Safeco Field to be closed while play was going on.
NOTES: The Pirates optioned RHP Duke Welker to Triple-A Indianapolis to make room for Gomez to start Wednesday's game. ... Pittsburgh OF Starling Marte collected another extra-base hit with a fifth-inning double. Of Marte's last 12 hits, nine have gone for extra bases. ... Walker, who had never previously faced Hernandez, had two hits off the Mariners' ace Wednesday.

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