Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer turns 30 Saturday, and he decided to give himself an early birthday present: a grand slam, which came in the six inning off Milwaukee Brewers starter Matt Garza. It was Mercer’s 10th homer of the season.
Mercer’s blast helped the Pirates (65-61) secure a 5-3 victory over the Brewers.
Garza (4-6, 4.89 ERA) had Mercer in an 0-2 count before the grand slam. This season, Alex Dickerson, Seth Smith and Adam Eaton are the only other Major League players to hit grand slams down 0-2. This was Mercer’s first career grand slam and the second time he’s hit 10 or more home runs (he also did so in 2014.)
Mercer’s home run was part of a five-run sixth inning.
Andrew McCutchen led off the inning and reached base on a fielding error by third baseman Jonathan Villar. Gregory Polanco then reached on a fielder’s choice where Villar made a throwing error. Starling Marte wasted little time, hitting an 0-1 pitch to left field for his 31st double of the season. McCutchen scored, and Polanco advanced to third base.
With Mercer on deck, Garza intentionally walked Francisco Cervelli. Of course, the move of backfired when Mercer homered.
Mercer’s home run allowed Pittsburgh starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong to even his record to 3-3 on the season.
Vogelsong allowed two runs on a sixth-inning Orlando Arcia home run. He threw 93 pitches, 54 of which were strikes. Vogelsong allowed four hits, walked four and struck out six. Vogelsong lasted 5.1 innings before relievers Jared Hughes, who allowed a run, and Antonio Bastardo closed out the inning.
Felipe Rivero came in for the seventh and struck out two Brewers in a 1-2-3 inning. He owns a 0.84 ERA in his last 27 appearances.
Neftali Feliz was tasked with setting down the Brewers in the eighth, but he allowed Keon Broxton to reach second base on a walk and stolen base. With two outs, Hernan Perez hit a sinking line drive that Polanco made a diving catch on to keep the Pirates in the lead by two runs.
Closer Tony Watson got the first two outs in the ninth inning before allowing a single to Ryan Braun and a walk to Chris Carter. When Watson trailed 2-0 in the count to Domingo Santana, Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage came out for a mound visit. Watson’s next pitch was enough to put away Santana, who popped out to Josh Harrison to end the game.
It was Watson’s ninth save of the season. He’s been tough for opposing hitters to hit when a runner is in scoring position; opponents are batting .094 on those occasions.
The third game in this four-game series will be played Saturday night when Pittsburgh’s Jameson Taillon (3-3, 2.92 ERA) faces Milwaukee’s Jimmy Nelson (7-13, 4.26 ERA).
Image credit: David Hague