Hot-hitting Polanco belts first grand slam

Hot-hitting Polanco belts first grand slam

MIAMI -- Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco continued his breakout campaign -- and added to his video-game numbers at Marlins Park -- as he crossed another career first off his list in Monday night's 10-0 win.

Polanco crushed his first grand slam to right-center field against Miami reliever Jose Urena in the sixth inning. The budding star's bases-clearing blast gave the Bucs a 7-0 lead.

Grand slams mean 40% off pizza

"I put a good swing on it, and thank God it left the park," Polanco said. "My first one. ... Even in the Minor Leagues, I never hit one."

Andrew McCutchen led off the sixth with a single to left field, chasing Marlins starter Justin Nicolino. David Freese doubled to right off Urena, who intentionally walked Starling Marte with one out to load the bases.

Francisco Cervelli knocked an infield single off Urena, driving in one run and keeping the bases loaded. Up came Polanco, who worked a 2-1 count before lining a 91-mph changeup 423 feet into the outfield seats with an exit velocity of 110 mph, according to Statcast™.

Polanco was looking for a fastball, if only to keep up with Urena's 97-mph heater. But he saw a changeup left out over the plate, unleashed his refined swing and ripped it over the fence.

Polanco's eighth homer was the Pirates' second grand slam of the season. Fifty games into Pittsburgh's season, Polanco's blast pulled him within one home run of the career high he set in 153 games last year.

The first homer of Polanco's big league career came at Marlins Park, and he hasn't stopped hitting here ever since. Polanco has hit safely in six of his seven games in Miami, going 16-for-32 with two homers, two doubles, nine RBIs and eight runs scored.

Must C: Clutch

"It's a short sample size, but he's hit well here. Good looks," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I think it's a good ballpark to see the ball, just a hard ballpark to reach the bleachers."

Polanco has spent most of the last month batting third for the Pirates, but he was moved down to the seventh spot in the order because the Marlins started Nicolino, a left-hander.

After struggling to hit lefties in his first two Major League seasons, Polanco has been much improved this season. But Miami's bullpen is entirely right-handed, and Polanco entered the night with a .329/.410/.550 batting line and five of his seven homers against righties.

Pitching with a seven-run lead allowed left-hander Jeff Locke to attack the strike zone with confidence, so his own personal achievements aside, Polanco's blast also played a role in one for Locke: his first career shutout.

"It's big time," Locke said of Polanco's slam. "You just want to go out there and keep throwing strikes the best you can. If you're throwing balls, giving up hits, walking people, you're probably not going to get that opportunity."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.