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Saturday November 28 2015
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Pirates hang on to top Diamondbacks 7-6

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The Pirates survived four errors—three in a wild seventh inning—to hang on and beat the Diamondbacks 7-6 on Wednesday, courtesy of a three-run homer and two-run double by Neil Walker and solo shots by Starling Marte and Jordy Mercer.

In a game filled with errors, lightning and rain, the Pirates did just enough offensively to pull out a win in front of their home crowd Wednesday night.

“We were probably stronger on guts tonight than we were execution,” manager Clint Hurdle said in regards to the amount of defensive errors. “We kept pushing them back into the game in a number of different ways.”

Early in the first, Steven Drew hit a double to the right field corner and advanced to third on a bunt by Willie Bloomquist. Drew crossed home on a base hit by Chris Johnson followed by a Paul Goldschmidt sacrifice fly that plated Johnson. The D-Backs took an early 2-0 lead.

The Bucs responded in the bottom of the first as Neil Walker sent his 13th ball of the season over the right field wall, sending Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones home. Pittsburgh took the lead 3-2 after one.

Pittsburgh extended their lead in the bottom of the third with a Starling Marte solo shot to center field—his first at PNC Park. The Bucs offense loaded the bases with a base hit by McCutchen and walks by Jones and Pedro Alvarez, but a strike out from Rod Barajas kept the runners stranded and the Bucs took a 4-2 lead.

Arizona tied the game at four in the fifth starting with a Gerardo Parra walk. Parra advanced to third off a base hit by Drew. Both crossed the plate after Goldschmidt reached third on an error by third baseman Pedro Alvarez.

Walker earned his career game high fifth RBI in the fifth inning with the bases loaded. A Walker double to left field plated Travis Snider and McCutchen. With runners in scoring position Jones was caught trying to score on a wild pitch, costing the Bucs a potential run, and Rod Barajas struck out ending the inning. Nevertheless,Pittsburgh regained the lead, 6-4.

Bucs’ shortstop Jordy Mercer hit his first Major League homerun in the sixth, extending Pittsburgh’s lead to three, but the Diamondbacks responded in the seventh as a sacrifice fly from Goldschmidt sent Drew crossing the plate.

“He left a pitch up, I put a good swing on it and the rest is history,” Mercer said of his first big league homer.

After replacing Chris Resop, Tony Watson got the Bucs out of a bases loaded jam to end the seventh inning, striking out Eric Young. Both Justin Upton and Young were ejected from the game after arguing with the home plate umpire. The Pirates maintained their lead, 7-5.

Arizona put themselves within one in the eighth as Bloomquist hit an RBI single plating Parra, who previously reached first on a base hit and two groundouts that advanced him to third. With the tying run on first, Johnson flied out to second, but the D-Backs were still able to reduce the Bucs’ lead.

Joel Hanrahan earned his 33rd save after striking out all three batters he faced in the ninth to end the game.

“We felt pretty good going into the ninth inning with Joel,” Walker said, “If we can get the ball in Joel’s hand with a run we feel pretty good about our chances.”

The Pirates have gone 24-7 in their last 31 games at PNC Park and entered Wednesday’s action with the best home record in the Major Leagues. This win has put the Bucs within 2 ½ games of the first place Reds in the National League Central race.

On Deck
The Bucs will face the Diamondbacks for the last game of the series Thursday, August 8 at 4:05 p.m. ET at PNC Park. Pittsburgh will start Wandy Rodriguez (0-1; 4.15 ERA) who will make his first start at PNC Park since being acquired from Houston July 24. The D-Backs will start Joe Saunders (5-8; 3.57 ERA).

Neil Walker’s contract expires after the 2016 season. The Pirates second baseman is due for a big raise in arbitration this offseason—likely to $10 million—and signing him to a long-term extension will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $12-$15 million annually.
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