PITTSBURGH (AP) — Neil Walker wasn't expecting to have a big offensive game Friday night, especially with Michael Wacha pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals.
The last time Wacha started at PNC Park was in the Game 4 of last year's National League Division Series and he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in beating the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Yet the hot-hitting Walker had three hits, including a go-ahead three-run home run in the seventh inning, and drove in four runs to help the Pirates beat the Cardinals 6-4.
"Wacha is so good, as we found out last year," said Walker, who has reached base in 22 of his last 40 plate appearances. "He throws hard and you've got to shorten up your swing and put the ball in play. That's the best way to approach him because you're usually not going to do too much against him."
While Walker's first two hits were against Wacha, his seventh homer came off Carlos Martinez (0-2) and rallied the Pirates from a 4-3 deficit for their third straight victory. Jordy Mercer and pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez led off the inning with singles and were bunted up a base by Jose Tabata before Walker hit a drive into the right-field stands.
"Martinez is as tough as Wacha, but he hung a slider and I was able to put a good swing on it," Walker said. "I was surprised. The guy has such great stuff that you're not thinking that you're going to hit a home run in that situation. It was huge."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said it didn't appear that Martinez got the home run pitch "where he wanted it."
Mercer had three of the Pirates' 12 hits, while Ike Davis, who hit a two-run double in the first inning to open the scoring, and Tabata had two hits apiece. Pittsburgh beat St. Louis for the 10th time in 13 games at home.
Mercer's performance was a welcome development for the Pirates and their shortstop, who is hitting just .187.
"I've been putting in a lot of time in the batting cage, trying to figure things out and it's nice to have some results because I feel confident now when I step in the batter's box," Mercer said. "Confidence is such a big part of hitting."
Continue reading this story on the...