Correia earns first home win of season vs. Twins

Correia earns first home win of season vs. Twins

Correia earns first home win of season vs. Twins
PITTSBURGH -- When it comes to facing left-handed pitchers at home, the Pirates do not always beat them up. But they almost always beat them.

The Bucs added another notch to their southpaw belt Tuesday night, downing the Minnesota Twins and left-hander Scott Diamond, 7-2, in PNC Park.

The Pirates' ninth win in 10 home confrontations with lefties went for a good cause -- it presented Kevin Correia with his own first victory in PNC Park in nearly a year, since last June 22.

"I feel like I've been pitching a lot better at home. I knew the wins would come," said Correia, who blanked Minnesota on four hits for 5 1/3 innings. "I continue to do weird things here. All three of my wins have been over American League teams."

That victory on June 22, 2011 had been over Baltimore. Correia's only other PNC Park triumph in a Pirates uniform was over Detroit, a month earlier.

The veteran right-hander feels there is more on the way.

"We're starting to hit," he said, "so I'll get my wins."

The Pirates are indeed starting to hit as a team. This was only the second time in 31 home games that they have scored more than five runs, but the gusher actually was in keeping with the recent trend. They have scored 25 runs in the last three games, exceeding 10 hits in each to enhance their rather remarkable record when getting 10-plus hits, now 16-2.

And after Clint Barmes' 3-for-4 night lifted the shortstop's average to .200, the Pittsburgh lineup had no one beneath the Mendoza Line for the first time all season.

The Bucs' fifth consecutive home win, as well as their 10th in 13 Interleague games here since the start of 2011, inched them two games ahead of third-place St. Louis and within 2 1/2 games of NL Central-leading Cincinnati.

Correia walked one while striking out two. Having allowed only four hits to go with that, he was rather stunned to learn he had made 97 pitches.

"If you looked at my line, it's weird that I had as many pitches as I did. But it was a close game, and we played it like we had to," said Correia, alluding to his rather quick departure amid sixth-inning trouble.

After weathering a first-inning storm with minimal damage, Diamond gave the Bucs fits before departing a 3-0 game with one out in the sixth.

A pitchers' duel appeared out of the question six batters into the bottom of the first. With one out, Josh Harrison homered, barely by the glove of sun-blinded left fielder Josh Willingham.

"I couldn't see it at first because the sun was in my eyes," Willingham said. "I started back and got to the fence and tried to grab it with my glove. But I guess it missed my glove and hit the fence and bounced off me and went off the fence."

Then Andrew McCutchen singled, his 20th hit in his last 35 at-bats against left-handers. Then Casey McGehee also singled, his 11th hit in his last 24 at-bats. The runners moved up on Neil Walker's infield grounder, then Pedro Alvarez walked to load the bases.

Could the Bucs open up this game early? Turned out to be a (bases) loaded question: Rod Barajas grounded out, leaving the Pirates 6-for-35 in those situations this season.

And the duel was on.

The guy who started out stronger was the first to go -- although that turned out to only be a factor of whose cleats first dug into the mound in the sixth. Correia had one out in the sixth when he issued his only walk, to Ben Revere, who stole second before Willingham followed with a single.

So left-hander Tony Watson followed Correia to the mound, to deal with cleanup hitter Justin Morneau, whose fly to center was too shallow for Revere to tag up at third and attempt to score. Then, after issuing a bases-loading walk to Trevor Plouffe, Watson fanned Ryan Doumit -- his contribution to the longtime (2005-11) former Pirates catcher's 1-for-4 return.

"That was huge right there," Correia said of Watson's work. "To have him come in and pick me up with what was still a small lead was huge. Then we scored some more runs, and that kinda insured my win."

Diamond, too, departed one out into his sixth. The Bucs had already scored, making it 3-0 on Barmes' RBI double. Later in the inning, pinch-hitter Matt Hague's infield grounder off reliever Al Burnett delivered Barmes for a 4-0 lead.

In between, the Bucs had run themselves into a 2-0 lead, in the fifth. Harrison again was the catalyst: He singled, stole second before McCutchen walked, then made a motion for the two of them to pull a double steal. When that worked, it paid off in a run on McGehee's sacrifice fly.

"That was a big spot," Harrison said. "We had a pretty good feel for [Diamond], and trying to pick right times to run. I felt that was the best time to go. Me and Cutch, he kind of knew I was going. Cutch just kind of looked at me. I had a good read, knew he was going to the plate. Got a good jump, and he just followed. It ended up being big for us, because Casey was able to get a sac fly."

Denard Span's two-run homer in the seventh off Juan Cruz got the Twins on the scoreboard, but it couldn't get Diamond off the hook.

Especially after McCutchen got those runs back with a two-run homer of his own, off Jeff Manship, in the bottom of the inning. McCutchen's 12th homer tied Alvarez for the team lead, going along with his .329 average and club-high 39 RBIs. Barajas added a sacrifice fly later in the inning.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.