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TOR@PIT: Mercer's two-run double ties game

PITTSBURGH -- Jordy Mercer was in a major funk. His batting average was .151. His slugging percentage was only a few points higher. Some people wanted to see him batting ninth, under normal circumstances. Others wanted him out of the lineup in favor of a DH, in Interleague road games.

In the seventh inning Saturday night at PNC Park, Mercer was also in the batter's box, sent up in a pinch to face Toronto reliever Aaron Loup with the Pirates on the fight back from an early deficit but still down by two runs.

Mercer had spent the first month of the season collecting chits from teammates and coaches who "always have my back." It was time for payback.

And pay back the confidence he did, drilling a two-run double to deep center that tied the game at 6 an inning before his double-play partner, Neil Walker, untied it with his own two-run double for an 8-6 triumph in front of a PNC Park house of 31,439.

"Oh, what a great hit," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Those are the moments … why you play the game. A big hit from Jordy. Nice swing of the bat."

Mercer was the unrivaled toast of the winners' locker room, although it obviously housed many contributors.

Newly recalled Jared Hughes and Vin Mazzaro picked up a short-term Francisco Liriano (3 2/3 innings) with 2 1/3 effective innings between them. Jeanmar Gomez and Bryan Morris each put up a zero -- the latter to earn his third win, or as many as the combined total of the Pirates' starting rotation. Mark Melancon converted a save opportunity -- the team's first in two weeks.

"Lot of meaningful things done tonight," Hurdle said.

None more so than Mercer's blow.

"Neil's was pretty big, too," Mercer said.

But Mercer's hit "was probably more key than any of the other hits," Walker said. "I was really happy for him. He's been grinding hard out there, and has been doing a real good job of not panicking -- and not listening to what everybody's been telling him. He's doing just fine, and tonight was his justice, coming off the bench and getting an absolutely huge hit."

The hit was a centerpiece of another comeback against the porous Toronto bullpen, which seems to match up well with the Pirates' rope-a-dope tendencies. The Bucs hung with perplexing knuckleballer R.A. Dickey close enough to roar back against Toronto relievers to post wins on consecutive days for the first time this season. Twice earlier they had won consecutive games, but with an off-day between them each time.

Next time Blue Jays manager John Gibbons needs a relief pitcher, the guys in his bullpen may be drawing straws, to see who gets the short one.

"I'm sure they don't want to hear that phone ring, I'll tell you that," Gibbons said. "It's kind of the way it's been going. But it's a long season, there's a lot left, we have to regroup."

Icing the comeback from deficits of 5-0 and 6-2, Walker hit the go-ahead double in the eighth off Todd Redmond, cashing in Ike Davis' infield single with one away and Josh Harrison's outfield single.

Dickey was still on the mound when the seventh inning began, but he took his leave following Clint Barmes' leadoff double. At least mentally, the Pirates may have been applauding Dickey's departure.

"[Dickey] is a quality pitcher, an All-Star, won 20 games in the big leagues -- and he was on tonight," Hurdle said. "So as soon as he's out, it's just better. It's no knock on anybody else, but it's going to be different. Anything else, we felt like we had a better chance with."

The Pirates' respite came against the lefty Loup, who entered to retire Davis but stayed in to give up an RBI double to Harrison, a single to Walker and a walk to Andrew McCutchen that loaded the bases. Pedro Alvarez grounded out to bring in another run -- and to bring up Mercer for the dramatic knock that was only his second extra-base hit this year and doubled his previous RBI output.

Liriano could not make it through the fourth as he remained without a win for a 10th straight regular-season start going back to last year. Even more remarkable is that his record does not stick out on a rotation going through an amazing dry spell. Charlie Morton has 11 consecutive starts without a win, and, if rightfully considered the fifth member of the current rotation, injured lefty Wandy Rodriguez has not won since late last May.

Run support has been an issue for Pittsburgh's starters. Liriano, for instance, has received five runs in the 37 2/3 innings he has been on the mound. Saturday night, he didn't get defensive support, either.

Toronto took a 1-0 lead in the third, after Steve Tolleson had begun the inning by striking out on a breaking pitch in the dirt, yet reached when catcher Tony Sanchez's toss for the putout at first base sailed into foul territory. Tolleson eventually got thrown out at home trying to score on a hit to Starling Marte by Josh Thole -- who was soon scoring on a Jose Reyes double.

The Blue Jays' four-run fourth unfolded like something imagined by Andy Warhol. Marte got turned the wrong way on a Brett Lawrie liner that did not even reach the warning track but found grass for an RBI double, then Colby Rasmus dropped an RBI single into right. Tolleson's double-play grounder brought in a run to make it 4-0, clearing the bases.

And the Blue Jays reloaded: Thole beat out a grounder deep into the second-base hole for an infield single -- the Pirates challenged the call, which stood -- and shortstop Barmes' boot of Dickey's grounder kept the inning alive for consecutive walks of Reyes and Melky Cabrera to force in another run to make it 5-0.

The Bucs answered in the bottom of that inning, loading the bases with one out on singles by Alvarez and Sanchez around a Gaby Sanchez walk. Two runs scored during Barmes' at-bat: One on a wild pitch, another on Barmes' groundout to third.

Mazzaro's season debut with the Bucs had been marred only by Jose Bautista's solo home run in the sixth. That long ball came with a neat subplot, of course. It was Bautista's 23rd home run at PNC Park -- and the first struck in a visitor's uniform. The former Pirates player hit 176 home runs between trots on the bank of the Allegheny. Comments