Pair of homers gives Bucs edge over Marlins

Pair of homers gives Bucs edge over Marlins

Pair of homers gives Bucs edge over Marlins
PITTSBURGH -- Since "Finish" is their main mantra this season, it makes perfect sense for the Pirates to shrug off their games' recent beginnings. Once again on Friday night, they found themselves faced with an early deficit. Once again they brushed it off like lint on a pants leg.

With Neil Walker's fifth-inning homer snapping a 3-3 tie, the Bucs edged the Marlins, 4-3, in front of a sellout crowd at PNC Park to remain a half-game behind the Reds in the National League Central.

To reach a new height of 12 games above .500, the Pirates (52-40) had to erase a two-run deficit. In their previous three wins, they twice overcame deficits of two runs, and one of four.

"We're just a real resilient group," Walker said. "We feel we can come back no matter who is on the mound."

Of course, such comebacks are easier with the best 92-game power duo in Pittsburgh's long history. Pedro Alvarez assisted this latest comeback with a solo homer in the fourth, his 20th, to join Andrew McCutchen (22) as the first pair of Pirates with 20-plus homers within a season's first 92 games.

Before the Bucs' 30th win in 44 home games -- the best in the Majors -- could officially enter the books, there was a Hanrattack Special from Joel Hanrahan, thus dubbed by manager Clint Hurdle for his entertaining saves. Hanrahan had the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position in the ninth before securing the win with strikeouts of Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio.

"Hey, got to make it interesting, don't I?" Hanrahan said with a grin shortly after posting his 27th save in 30 opportunities. "Yeah, I'll take that."

"He finds ways to get things down," Hurdle said of his closer. "Very challenging situations, he handles very professionally. He went at Reyes one way, and Bonifacio another way. Everyone in the park was waiting for the slider [to Bonifacio], but he stayed with the fastball, and it worked."

The entirety of Pittsburgh's bullpen worked, with Chris Resop, Jared Hughes and Jason Grilli preceding Hanrahan. For the second time in two games, the Bucs got five shaky innings out of their starter -- then four shutdown innings out of their relievers. On Wednesday it benefited James McDonald in Denver; on Friday it was Kevin Correia, who somehow got his fifth straight win to improve his record to 7-6.

"To get there from where I was, yeah, I think it's quite an achievement," said Correia, who stood 1-5 eight starts into the season. "It says a lot about how we're playing and about having the best bullpen in the league."

Add Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco to the long list of people who can't recognize these Pirates. Nolasco can take it personally: He was undone by allowing a pair of homers, something he had never before done against the team or the players wearing its uniform.

Nolasco hadn't been taken deep in 59 innings against the Pirates and in 83 at-bats by current Bucs until Alvarez took him deep with one out in the fourth. Walker followed in the fifth, putting the Bucs on top for the first time.

After taking the day "off" in the finale of the Rockies series -- the first game since June 9 that both went hitless -- McCutchen and Walker were both back at it again, with two hits each. Walker's lifted his average back above .300, to .301. McCutchen's pumped his mark to .372, giving him an 18-point lead over runner-up Melky Cabrera of the Giants.

The formula had worked for McDonald in the Pirates' last game, on Wednesday in Colorado, so Correia also gave it a try: surrendering a game-opening home run,Reyes' leadoff shot leading to a two-run inning, Bonifacio singling and stealing a pair of bases before scoring on Carlos Lee's grounder.

As they had for McDonald, dropped into a quick 3-0 by the Rockies on a leadoff homer by Dexter Fowler and a two-run blow by Carlos Gonzalez, the Bucs batters had Correia even by the end of the fourth.

Trailing, 3-1, by then, Alvarez began it with his 20th homer. That was immediately followed by the B&B Boys -- Rod Barajas doubled and came home with the tying run on Clint Barmes' single.

That was Barmes' 25th RBI of the season. Reyes, who had received a little more publicity and a lot more cash for his free-agent journey to Miami, has 24 RBIs.

Another part of Correia's strategy might have been to wear out Miami runners on the bases. In innings two through four, he gave up hits to six Marlins -- but only one of them scored, and even that only on Nolasco's sacrifice bunt.

"He pitched out of the stretch most of the game," Hurdle said, "but he was competitive. He didn't have his best stuff and they fouled off a lot to get up his pitch count, but he stayed away from big innings."

Correia's only 1-2-3 inning was perfectly timed: In the fifth, right before Walker's shot gave him the chance to leave with the lead. In the five innings, the righty allowed eight hits and three runs, with five strikeouts.

Nolasco got only one additional inning in his books, departing after six, having allowed eight hits and four runs, with one walk and seven strikeouts.

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.