Pirates 7, Twins 2
Even as Kevin Correia struggled, Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle stayed patient.
It was just a year ago, after all, the right-hander was an All-Star.
For a night, Correia provided a needed reminder, pitching 5 1-3 shutout innings to lead the Pirates to a 7-2 win over the reeling Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
Correia (3-6) allowed four hits to go with a walk and two strikeouts to earn his first victory at PNC Park since beating Baltimore on June 22, 2011.
''I knew (the wins) would come,'' Correia said. ''We're starting to hit.''
Andrew McCutchen drilled his 12th homer among his three hits, and Josh Harrison and Clint Barmes also notched three hits apiece for Pittsburgh, which has won three straight to climb four games above .500 (35-31).
Minnesota's Scott Diamond (5-3) gave up three runs in 5 1-3 innings to lose his second straight start. Denard Span hit a two-run homer for the Twins, who have dropped five of six.
''We didn't have a lot of chances,'' Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. ''We had a couple, but Correia made his pitches when he had to.''
The Twins began the day with the highest batting average in interleague play (.306) but mustered little on a steamy night when Correia seemed to recapture his 2011 form.
The 31-year-old Correia was a surprise All-Star selection last season after winning 11 games before the break, but since then has been in an 11-month funk - winning only three of his previous 20 starts, dating to last July. None of those victories came at home, where he had been 0-6 since that win over the Orioles.
Though hardly overpowering, Correia kept the ball away from the middle of the plate while grinding through 97 pitches.
''My slider was pretty good, I think,'' he said. ''All my stuff was pretty decent, so I was able to keep them off balance.''
Correia's only trouble spot came in the sixth inning, when a walk and a single put runners on the corners with one out, and he gave way to Tony Watson. The Twins loaded the bases before Watson struck out former Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit to end the threat.
Diamond wasn't nearly as crisp. The 25-year-old pitcher has been one of the few good stories this season for the underachieving Twins. He won five of his first seven starts thanks to impeccable control.
He had issues in a loss to the Phillies last week and kept the ball in the strike zone a little too much against the Pirates, who no longer look like one of the weakest offensive teams in the majors. Diamond gave up four runs, walked two and struck out one as his ERA rose from 2.13 to 2.57.
''Something doesn't feel completely right after that (hot) start and I think it's just a little bit of work in the (bullpen),'' Diamond said. ''I've got to refine the curveball a little bit, too. It just wasn't coming out right.''
Pittsburgh, which was last in nearly every major statistical category for the first two months of the season, is third in the National League in runs scored in June, adding to the total on a night the ball had little trouble carrying through the oppressive heat.
Harrison gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead in the first with help from Minnesota leftfielder Josh Willingham. Harrison smacked Diamond's fastball toward the wall in left.
Willingham initially broke forward before giving chase. He leaped just as the ball caromed off the top of the wall. Instead of grabbing it, however, Willingham could only watch as the ball deflected into the stands for Harrison's second homer of the season.
''I didn't realize it,'' Willingham said. ''Somebody told me but it really didn't hit me hard enough because I ran into the wall at the same time.''
Gardenhire didn't challenge the call, though maybe he would have if there was expanded replay in baseball. The hit was not reviewable.
''From our viewpoint it looked like a home run,'' Gardenhire said. ''Maybe we need instant replay, give me a red flag and I'll throw it out there.''
Casey McGehee's sacrifice fly in the fifth gave the Pirates a 2-0 lead, and Pittsburgh pushed it to 4-0 an inning later. Barmes, who lifted his batting average to .200 for the first time this season, doubled in Pedro Alvarez, and Matt Hague grounded into a fielders' choice.
Span's two-run homer briefly made it interesting before McCutchen responded with a two-run shot of his own.
NOTES: Minnesota C Joe Mauer didn't play while nursing a bruised right quad. Gardenhire said Mauer could have pinch-hit if necessary but ''couldn't run.'' ... Twins closer Matt Capps was also rested but said he is close to 100 percent after having inflammation in his right (throwing) shoulder in a loss to Milwaukee last Friday. ... The Pirates are 16-2 this season when they have at least 10 hits in a game. ... The series continues on Wednesday as Pittsburgh's Erik Bedard (4-7, 4.36 ERA) faces Minnesota's Francisco Liriano (1-7, 6.24).