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Upstart Pirates cap sweep of Marlins

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PITTSBURGH (AP)

Adam LaRoche can't explain why he's gone from being the majors' worst hitter in April to one of its best. All he wants to do is keep hitting like he's not supposed to during a month he and the Pittsburgh Pirates once dreaded. LaRoche had four hits and little brother Andy drove in a pair of runs, leading the surprising Pirates to a 7-4 victory over Florida on Wednesday and a three-game sweep of the team with baseball's best record. Florida began the series with an 11-1 record, a seven-game winning streak and a 6-0 road record, only to be outscored 18-6 while being swept in a three-game series by Pittsburgh for the first time since May 30-June 1, 2005. "They played better the whole series, they ran the bases and got key hits when they had to and they pitched real good," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But I think we'll be fine, we'll get recharged when we get back home (Friday)." The Pirates didn't get their usual standout starting pitching - their starters came in with a 2.79 ERA - so they relied instead on the brothers LaRoche and balance throughout the lineup to win their fifth in six games. Seven players had at least one hit each, including starting pitcher Paul Maholm, as the Pirates scored in five different innings. Pittsburgh is 9-6, its best start since opening 10-5 in 2002. The Pirates were 7-8 a year ago, 6-9 in 2007 and 4-11 in 2005 and 2006. "I feel like we took advantage of every mistake they made, every little thing, whether it's stealing a bag, scoring on a passed ball - we took advantage of opportunities," Adam LaRoche said. "I think that proves we're a pretty good team and it's not just a fluke. You come in and play the best team in baseball and sweep them, that's saying something." The Pirates played with confidence during a 6-3 homestand and, Maholm said, are enthused about not coming to the park "seven games under at this point" as they were in recent seasons. And what can Adam LaRoche say about his excellent April? He went 4-for-5 with three doubles to raise his average to .304, which is .125 higher than his .179 career average in April coming into this season. According to Stats LLC, the only NL hitters since 1900 with worse career averages in April were Dal Maxvill (.174) and Clete Boyer (.175). "That's behind me now," said LaRoche, who appears to be staying on breaking pitches much better than he once did. "If I could answer that, I would have faced it four years ago. I have no idea what it is, but I'm not complaining." Adam LaRoche doubled in a run during the first against Ricky Nolasco (1-2), then singled ahead of Andy LaRoche's sacrifice fly during a two-run third that made it 3-0. The LaRoche brothers also doubled in the fifth to produce another run. After the Marlins tied it at 4 with a two-run sixth against Maholm (3-0), the Pirates immediately came back to take a 6-4 lead. Delwyn Young doubled for his 15th pinch hit over the last two seasons and scored on Nyjer Morgan's single, with Morgan taking second on the throw. Morgan stole third and scored as former Pirates catcher Ronny Paulino's errant throw eluded third baseman Emilio Bonifacio. "I gave up those two runs and completely took us out of the game. For me, it's embarrassing to do that," Nolasco said. "It's just a little frustrating right now. ... It's not acceptable." Maholm, who came in with a 0.87 ERA, retired the first nine batters only to allow four runs and eight hits during the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Wes Helms and Cody Ross contributed run-scoring doubles and Nolasco helped himself with an RBI single. Jesse Chavez, Sean Burnett, John Grabow followed before Matt Capps pitched the ninth for his fifth save in five opportunities. Several of their top hitters have cooled off since the Marlins were 11-1. Dan Uggla is hitless in 21 at-bats, Bonifacio is 6-for-42 since starting the season 14-for-29 and Hanley Ramirez is 10-for-49 in 11 games despite going 2-for-4 on Wednesday. "Everybody in here has felt the feeling of getting swept. It happens. It's baseball," Ross said. "We can bounce back. We need to get to back to the way we were playing a few days ago."

Notes

Maholm's ERA rose to 2.02. ... Marlins INF Jorge Cantu returned to Miami on Wednesday morning to get his bruised wrist examined, but no major problems were found. ... Florida was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position during the series until Helms doubled in the fourth.
Tagged: Pirates, Marlins

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