PITTSBURGH -- Jordy Mercer got the hardest part out of the way first -- so hard, in fact, that it may have kept him from a shot at history.
A home run shy of hitting for the cycle, Mercer exited the Pirates' 11-6 romp over the Cardinals on Saturday night at PNC Park after five innings due to a sore left knee. Pittsburgh's shortstop had to settle, if you will, for a season-high-tying three hits and a career-high-tying four RBIs.
"Definitely, I was thinking about it," Mercer said. "It just didn't allow me to do that today, but it was a good day."
Mercer has played through pain in his left knee, likely tendinitis, for some time now. It flares up when he has to leg out a double or, say, a triple like the one he hit in the first inning Saturday night.
"To me, it wasn't worth it," Mercer said. "If something goes wrong or something happens, it could be even more serious. It was a good time to come out and get some rehab done, get started early."
Mercer checked off three-fourths of the cycle in his first three plate appearances. He was responsible for the biggest hit in the Bucs' eight-run first inning against Lance Lynn, ripping a line drive to center field that bounced past Dexter Fowler. Having cleared the bases, Mercer wheeled around second before third-base coach Joey Cora held him up 90 feet from an inside-the-park homer.
"[Lynn] was leaving the ball over the middle of the plate, and we were putting good swings on it," Mercer said. "When the rally gets going like that, you want to keep the line moving. Hitting's contagious. That speaks for itself."
Mercer led off the third inning with a single to left, took second on Gerrit Cole's sacrifice bunt, advanced to third on a single by Adam Frazier and scored on Starling Marte's sacrifice fly to center field. That gave the Pirates a 9-3 lead, with those nine runs matching the team's total output during their recent seven-game losing streak.
"It's a good jumpstart for us. We don't want to finish with a sour taste in our mouth -- especially offensively, when we've had numerous chances and haven't capitalized," Mercer said. "We finally get to break out and enjoy this. Everybody got a taste of it tonight, too, which was really good. It was a good win. We need to keep carrying it over and keep finishing strong."
Mercer finished his night strong, at least, smacking an RBI double to left field in the fifth inning to put the Pirates ahead, 10-3. He hobbled down the dugout steps after being stranded at third base and did not return to the game. Max Moroff replaced Mercer at shortstop in the sixth inning.
"My knee's been barking. Probably got some tendinitis going," Mercer said. "It's all right until I have to leg out a triple or a double or stop or do some crazy things like that. That's when it starts going downhill."
So, no regrets, even with a shot at his first career cycle and the Pirates' second in as many years?
"It was fun regardless. You live for these days," Mercer said. "I wish I had a chance at it, but hopefully it'll come again some time soon."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.