Pirates rally in 9th behind Alvarez and Marte; beat Blue Jays 6-5

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PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Pirates probably thought they were in for another long night.

They arrived home in Pittsburgh at 3:33 a.m. Friday after the second game of their doubleheader with the Baltimore Orioles went into extra innings. The Pirates appeared on their way to playing another late one Friday night when Pedro Alvarez hit a tying two-run homer off Sergio Santos in the ninth.

But two batters later, Starling Marte followed with a winning drive into the bullpen in left-center, giving the Pirates a 6-5 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Manager Clint Hurdle, who moved Marte from batting leadoff to the seventh spot in the lineup Thursday and six-hole Friday, hopes the win can get his players and team some “traction.”

“It’s been a while since Pedro has been able to ride one out of the ballpark,” Hurdle said. “Marte’s at-bats have gotten bigger, none bigger than that one. Those kind of at-bats can create a spark, create more momentum and more traction.”

Marte knew the ball was gone as soon as he hit it.

“That’s what I want,” Marte said. “No matter what spot I hit in.”

Santos (0-2) entered with a 5-3 lead and allowed a leadoff single to Neil Walker. He struck out Andrew McCutchen, and Alvarez followed with his seventh homer this season. Pinch-hitter Ike Davis flied out, and Marte hit the first game-ending homer of his big league career.

Alvarez’s homer broke a two-week home run drought for the third baseman who led the National League last season.

“Obviously, (hitting the home run) feels really good,” Alvarez said. “It kept us in the game, but of course anytime I can get a clutch hit for the team, to contribute to a W, it’s huge.”

Mark Melancon (1-1) pitched a hitless ninth for the win. After converting his first four save chances this season, Santos has blown three of his last four for the Blue Jays, who have lost seven of their last nine games and continue to have issues in the bullpen.

“We played such a great game today and it stinks to blow it,” Santos said.

Toronto manager John Gibbons noted the injuries to reliever Casey Janssen and Dustin McGowan as aspects that have hindered the Blue Jays’ performance at the end of games.

“It’s a totally different look and I think we’re suffering for it,” Gibbons said. “But the game doesn’t let you up.”

McCutchen had three hits for Pittsburgh, which outhit the Blue Jays 17-10. The Pirates won for just the third time in 13 games and the fifth time in their last 20.

Pirates starter Gerrit Cole allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings, failing to reach the sixth for the first time in six starts this season. Cole said he was “a little off” Friday night.

“I wasn’t executing a handful of pitches there,” Cole said. “They beat me on some good pitches.”

Toronto’s Brandon Morrow gave up three runs and 11 hits in five innings. After walking eight batters in his last start, Morrow walked just one Friday.

“I just forgot about that and went out and threw the way I’d been throwing before that,” Morrow said. “I wasn’t thinking about that and I don’t think it was strange to come out and have good command today.”

In his first at-bat in Pittsburgh since 2008, Jose Bautista hit a two-out double in the first and scored on a double by Edwin Encarnacion.

Pittsburgh took a 2-1 lead on Jordy Mercer’s run-scoring, double-play grounder in the second and McCutchen’s RBI single in the third.

Colby Rasmus hit his sixth homer of the season in the fourth, a two-run drive, and Bautista had an RBI double in the fifth that made it 4-2.

McCutchen’s run-scoring single cut the deficit in the bottom half, but Toronto regained a two-run lead in the sixth on pinch-hitter Steve Tolleson’s run-scoring, two-out triple off Justin Wilson.

Hurdle was keen not to forget about Casey Sadler making his major league debut Friday night. Sadler pitched two scoreless innings, gave up a hit and struck out one.

“He was able to come in and keep the game right where it was,” Hurdle said. “Not to be lost in everything else that went on because he kept it right there at a two-run deficit.”

NOTES: Bautista has a 12-game hitting streak and has reached based in all 29 games he’s played this season. … Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (2-3, 5.09 ERA) is scheduled to start Saturday against Francisco Liriano (0-3, 3.97).

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