MILWAUKEE — One big swing released a little frustration for Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer.
After an intentional walk loaded the bases for him with two outs in the sixth inning, Mercer hit his first career grand slam just over the wall in left-center to help the Pirates beat the Milwaukee Brewers 5-3 Friday night.
“Puts a little chip on your shoulder, for sure,” Mercer said.
With runners on second and third with two outs, starter Matt Garza walked Francisco Cervelli to bring up the eighth-place hitter, Mercer.
Garza got ahead in the count 0-2. Then he hung a pitch over the plate.
“I floated a slider in there,” he said.
He didn’t get help from third baseman Jonathan Villar that inning. He committed errors on consecutive at-bats to open the sixth.
Villar bobbled a bouncer by Andrew McCutchen, then threw wildly to second after making a diving stab on Gregory Polanco’s hard shot.
Starling Marte followed with an RBI double off Garza (4-6) to break a scoreless tie. Three batters later, Mercer connected.
“You take advantage of those opportunities,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “In the big leagues, if you want to be an elite team, those are opportunities you need to cash in on.”
The Brewers rallied in the bottom of the sixth behind a three-run shot from rookie shortstop Orlando Arcia, his first in the big leagues.
Pittsburgh’s problematic bullpen barely held on from there to back starter Ryan Vogelsong (3-3).
Domingo Santana popped out to end the game with the potential tying run at second.
Tony Watson escaped the jam for his ninth save. He had allowed a two-out single to Ryan Braun and a walk to Chris Carter, and they pulled off a double steal before getting stranded.
“The game boiled down to a couple of mistakes, a bad 0-2 pitch and that was the game,” manager Craig Counsell said.
A pair of veteran right-handers, Vogelsong and Garza, kept the bats quiet over the first five innings.
Vogelsong won for the second time in three outings, allowing four hits in 5 2-3 innings while striking out six and walking four. He has a 2.48 ERA in five August starts.
“I’ve always been a guy that gets out of stuff, sometimes better than others,” Vogelsong said. “Most of the time, get some traffic and make pitches and get out of it.”
Garza struck out a season-high nine, but stomped off the mound after Mercer’s two-out blast.
“That’s a tough one to swallow for him over there,” Hurdle said.
Villar was the Brewers’ starting shortstop until a few weeks ago when top prospect Arcia was called up from the minors. Villar, who has 50 steals, is still working on the glove at third.
Arcia, known for his defensive prowess, got a huge confidence boost at the plate. He was hitting .182 coming into the night.
He pointed into the stands after crossing the plate. Somewhere in Miller Park, his sister and two friends were watching.
Arcia said teammate Martin Maldonado, who was on deck, told him to watch for Jared Hughes to leave a sinker up in the zone.
Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow (shoulder) was scheduled to make his next rehab start on Saturday for Triple-A Indianapolis.
Brewers: RHP Junior Guerra (elbow) was scheduled to make on rehab start before returning to the team, likely when rosters expand on Sept. 1. Counsell said the team will likely move to a six-man rotation when Guerra returns. … 3B Will Middlebrooks (right leg) will start a rehab assignment at Double-A Biloxi this week.
Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (3-3) has a 2.25 ERA over his last eight starts, going at least six innings in each game.
Brewers: RHP Jimmy Nelson (7-13) is 5-2 in seven career starts against the Pirates with a 2.55 ERA.
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