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SF@PIT: Marte gets four hits, scores four runs

PITTSBURGH -- Top shelf? Top drawer? Top Gun?

By any name, the top third of the Pirates' lineup was top-notch Wednesday night, as Starling Marte, Jordy Mercer and Andrew McCutchen sparked a 12-8 victory over San Francisco at PNC Park.

The 3M Co. really stuck it to the Giants, going 10-for-15 to carry a shaky Francisco Liriano to his fifth victory of the season.

The veteran lefty thus left a significant footprint in the trail of Pittsburgh baseball history: The victory was the city's 10,000th pro ball victory, including 236 prior to the franchise's 1887 entry into the National League, to which its official birth is traced.

Marte posted his first career four-hit game, Mercer went 3-for-5 and McCutchen also went 3-for-5 while driving in Pittsburgh's first three runs off left-hander Barry Zito.

Good thing, too, because batters owned this night on both sides. The Giants themselves replied with a 15-hit assault.

"It was a very good night for our offense to show up, on a night that was challenging for everybody off the mound," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Every run counted, and we were able to continue adding on."

The Bucs' 18-hit slice of that offensive pie was their biggest of the season (16 hits on May 11 in Citi Field against the Mets).

The obvious ringleader was Marte, each of whose singles keyed innings in which the Pirates totaled 10 of their 12 runs.

"No one is perfect, but I felt good at the plate," Marte, whose average had slipped to .279 before the big night raised it back to .289, said through interpreter Heberto Andrade, the Bucs' bullpen catcher. "I've been working to focus on every at-bat, trying to be more consistent.

"When I'm on base and can steal a base," added Marte, who did pilfer two bags to give him 20 for the season, "I know it gives McCutchen behind me a better chance for a ribbie. And that's been one of the keys for me."

"That's a professional top of the order. They fuel the lineup," Hurdle said. "That's why you have them hitting first, second and third. They set up McCutchen. And [Gaby] Sanchez added on very admirably in the cleanup spot."

Indeed, Sanchez, in the lineup at first against the lefty Zito, joined the fun relatively late, but also wound up with a 3-for-4 card.

Mercer felt like he was in hitter's heaven, batting between the speedy Marte and daunting McCutchen.

"It's pretty special," said Mercer, smiling at the mere thought of it. "You know the guy in front of you, if he gets on, will more than likely steal a bag, so my one job is to get him over. And the guy behind you, you know is going to pick you up. So, yeah, it's pretty cool to hit between those two guys, for sure."

This was the Bucs' second offensive outburst in as many nights -- they scored eight runs on 12 hits Tuesday, a two-game total of 30 hits that is their season peak and their most since 30 hits last July 1 (at St. Louis) and July 2 (against Houston). The support was welcomed by Liriano, who allowed 11 baserunners (eight hits and three walks) in six innings. Four runs off him swelled his ERA from 1.75 to 2.36.

You could keep time by this game. Bottom of an even-numbered inning? Time to snooze. Odd-numbered inning? Up and at 'em.

McCutchen followed Marte's and Mercer's singles in the first with his own single, for a 1-1 tie (the Giants had drawn first blood in the top of the inning on Hunter Pence's RBI double).

McCutchen doubled the damage in the third. After singles by Marte and Mercer, he doubled them both home and eventually scored himself as Russell Martin was bouncing into a double play, making it 4-1.

Before the bottom of the next odd inning, the Giants tied it at 4 thanks to Juan Perez's sacrifice fly in the fourth and a two-run Joaquin Arias single in the fifth.

But they eventually again had to face the bottom. Following the automatic singles by Marte and Mercer, Zito tinkered with the fates by sneaking a called third strike past McCutchen -- and paid for it on Martin's run-scoring single and Pedro Alvarez's RBI double, plus two more runs charged to him on Neil Walker's single off reliever Jose Mijares.

Mijares being another left-hander, that two-run knock tripled Walker's season total of RBIs off southpaws. He had one in 37 at-bats prior to that sharp drive into right.

"Any time you gets hits with guys in scoring position is good for your confidence," Walker said, "and it's no secret I've been trying to find my rhythm right-handed. We've been working on some things to free me up, and I hit a couple balls hard tonight."

That 8-4 lead grew to 10-4 in the sixth, as Alex Presley delivered a pinch-hit home run and Marte, after following his fourth single with his second steal, scored on Sanchez's double. Walker got his fifth homer in the seventh on a call reversed following a replay review after his drive to right had originally been ruled a double.

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