PITTSBURGH (AP) — Clint Hurdle watched rookie Gregory Polanco scuffle for the better part of two weeks before giving the talented but raw right fielder a needed night off on Monday.
The downtime paid immediate dividends.
The 22-year-old smacked a solo home run and delivered a tiebreaking two-run single in the sixth inning, lifting the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 12-7 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night.
Polanco entered the game hitting .133 since July 5 but smacked a bases-loaded single with two outs in the sixth off Los Angeles reliever Jamey Wright to put Pittsburgh in front for good.
"To fight through an at-bat and drive in a couple of runs opposite field, off gap, it was good to see," Hurdle said.
Neil Walker went 2 for 4 with his 15th homer and three RBIs for Pittsburgh. Ike Davis finished with three hits — including his sixth home run — as the Pirates improved to 33-21 at PNC Park, the best home record in the National League.
It's a place where Polanco figures to be a fixture for the rest of the decade, but he has cooled off following a torrid start. Yet he didn't panic, and with the game on the line he patiently worked the count full against Wright before sending the ball to left field to score Russell Martin and Davis.
"The thing that's been impressive with him is he hasn't changed anything," Walker said of Polanco. "He hasn't tried to go up there and force the issue and hack away at the first thing he sees. Tonight was one of those nights he trusted his eyes and he trusted himself in a huge spot in a huge game and got a big hit for us."
Vance Worley (3-1) overcame some shaky defense behind him to win for the first time in nearly a month.
Adrian Gonzalez connected for his 15th long ball of the season and finished with three RBIs for the Dodgers. Paul Maholm (1-5) took the loss after replacing ineffective starter Josh Beckett, who struggled in his return from a hip injury.
Beckett was in the middle of a late-career renaissance when his left hip flared up in a victory over Colorado on July 8. The rust showed in his return. The Pirates touched the veteran right-hander for four runs in 3 2-3 innings, three of them coming on home runs by Walker, Davis and Polanco. Beckett had allowed just one earned run in his previous 27 innings pitched on the road.
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