Starling Marte fell a triple short of hitting for the cycle as the Pittsburgh Pirates won 9-3 Monday night against the Colorado Rockies.
Marte started with a first inning home run, his second in as many games. The ball left the bat at 106 miles-per-hour and quickly departed into the left field seats. The homer, hit off Jon Gray [0-2], was his 18th of the season.
Jordy Mercer came into the contest hitting .185 in the month of September but after Andrew McCutchen caught the 27th and final out in this game, he had four hits which tied Marte for a game-high. Two of those hits were doubles which drove in runs in the second and fourth innings. As it turned out, his fourth inning double plated the game-winning run.
Marte’s home run was not the only run the Pirates scored in the first inning, as two batters later, Aramis Ramirez, hit a homer on a 1-0 fastball, his 17th of the season and sixth with the Pirates.
Mercer’s two doubles were followed on the scoreboard by Gregory Polanco’s fourth inning single which scored the Pirates shortstop. Polanco came in hitting .326 in his last 21 road contests.
A.J. Burnett [9-5] faced the minimum amount of hitters through three innings, however allowed three runs [two earned] in the fifth inning.
Justin Morneau recorded a leadoff single and Pedro Alvarez committed his 21st error of the season, this time on a catch which allowed DJ LeMahieu to reach base by fielder’s choice. Tom Murphy then took a 1-0 sinker over the left field wall for a home run, his second of the season.
Burnett’s 29-pitch fifth inning ended with a strikeout of Nolan Arenado. It was not a good night for the Rockies third base man as he went 0-for-5 at the plate with four strikeouts while leaving six runners on base.
As the contest continued, Burnett’s pitch count increased at a high rate. Before he was removed with two outs in the sixth inning, Burnett had thrown another 21 pitches in the inning giving him 50 in his last 1.2 innings. Antonio Bastardo battled to record the final out and did so when Charlie Blackmon lined out to Polanco.
The Pirates did give Burnett additional run support prior to his removal from the game. Marte doubled in Mercer on a play that was reviewed by the umpires. The call stood giving Marte his 28th double of the season.
Bastardo, Joakim Soria and Tony Watson earned holds in this contest, allowing two hits in 2.1 innings of work. For Watson, it extended both his major league and career high hold total to 39.
In the ninth inning, the Pirates led off with a single and walk before Ramirez recorded an RBI single. He is one hit away from 2,300 in his Pirates career.
Neil Walker contributed an eighth run towards the Pirates cause with an RBI ground out.
Earlier Monday, Keon Broxton was called up and quickly he made his debut as a pinch-runner. His impact on the bases directly resulted in the ninth and final Pirates run in this game. Broxton advanced to second base on the Walker ground out. He stole third base, the first of his career and on a bad throw jogged home.
Bobby LaFromboise got the first two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, and Arquimedes Caminero recorded the final out.
This victory places the Pirates magic number at two meaning at the end of Tuesday night, another National League playoff spot may be determined. The St. Louis Cardinals clinched a playoff berth last week.
This four-game series continues Tuesday when J.A. Happ [5-2 1.96 ERA] takes on Chris Rusin [5-8 5.11 ERA]. Happ is 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA in five career appearances [four starts] against the Brewers.
Photo credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images