PITTSBURGH (AP) — Miami reliever Mike Dunn went through the heart of the Pittsburgh Pirates order in the eighth inning on Tuesday night, bailing out teammate Chad Qualls by striking out the NL’s leading home run hitter and getting a three-time All-Star to hit into a double play.
Dunn was undone by a utility player still fighting for a roster spot.
Josh Harrison took Dunn’s third pitch of the ninth inning and drove it into the first row of season in right-center field to lift the Pirates to a 4-3 victory.
“Initially, I didn’t think it was high enough to go out but it carried and it was a home run,” Dunn said. “It was a good job on his part.”
And a familiar refrain for the Marlins.
Dunn (2-3) was still in the game in the ninth because Miami manager Mike Redmond wanted to force Pittsburgh to go to its light-hitting bench. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle obliged by sending the right-handed Harrison to pinch hit against the lefthanded Marlins reliever.
The result was the one of the more improbable losses of Miami’s underwhelming season.
“I get so tired of talking about the same old stuff,” Redmond said. “We’ve played that game right there I don’t know how many times this season. We’ve been on the winning end of some but we’ve been on the losing end of many of them.”
Bryan Morris (5-4) pitched a perfect top of the ninth for the victory. The Pirates have won three straight and are a season-high 24 games over .500 (68-44).
Neil Walker had three hits for Pittsburgh. Andrew McCutchen had two hits, including a two-run double.
Donovan Solano went 3 for 5 for the Marlins but Miami left 11 runners on base while letting an early 3-0 lead slip away.
“We couldn’t get that hit we needed to get some breathing room,” he said.
The Marlins certainly had their chances. The best came in the seventh when they put two on with one out. Adieny Hechavarria hit a sinking liner to center off Pirates reliever Vin Mazzaro, but centerfielder Andrew McCutchen made a spectacular diving grab to save at least one run.
Miami had the bases loaded later in the inning when Jeff Mathis rocketed a ball of Mazzaro that landed inches foul. Mathis later fouled out and the Marlins didn’t manage another baserunner the rest of the night.
Things appeared ready to fall apart in the bottom of the eight when a walk, an infield hit, a wild pitch and an intentional walk by Qualls loaded the bases with no outs. Dunn came on and struck out Pedro Alvarez — whose 27 homers lead the NL — and got catcher Russell Martin to hit into a double play.
It just wasn’t enough.
“That was a great job of Dunn getting out of that situation in the eighth,” Redmond said. “That’s too bad, man. It’s a tough ending for him.”
Miami turned three singles — none of them sharply hit — into a run in the second off Pittsburgh starter Jeff Locke then added two more in the third behind four straight singles to start the inning. The Marlins, however, couldn’t pile on and Locke eventually settled down. The lefthander allowed three runs on nine hits in 5 2-3 innings, walking three and striking out four as his ERA ticked up to 2.47.
Henderson Alvarez handcuffed the Pirates in their previous meeting, limiting Pittsburgh to just two hits in six innings of a victory two weeks ago. The Pirates, however, briefly figured him out in the third. McCutchen doubled off the wall to drive in two runs and Pedro Alvarez followed with his first triple of the year to tie it.
The Pirates never threatened against the Miami starter again, and Alvarez left after seven innings, giving up three runs on six hits, striking out six while not issuing a walk.
NOTES: Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said LHP Francisco Liriano deserves to be in the NL Cy Young conversation. Liriano is 12-4 with a 2.02 ERA in 16 starts and was named the NL Player of the Week after picking up two victories between July 29-Aug. 4 … The series continues on Wednesday when Pittsburgh’s Charlie Morton (3-3, 4.07 ERA) faces Tom Koehler (3-6, 4.34). Morton gave up five runs in six innings of a loss to St. Louis in his previous start. Koehler pitched six shutout innings against the Mets in a win last Thursday.