Gregory Polanco homers again as Pirates top Blue Jays


Final. 3. 39. 8. 4

For the second time in as many days, outfielder Gregory Polanco homered, leading the offensive charge in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 8-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon – raising his average to a still-disappointing .222 on the spring.

Polanco’s blast erased an early deficit for the Bucs – putting the team up 2-1 against Toronto. The young outfielder, who is an integral part of the Pittsburgh plan this year, took veteran lefty Randy Wolf deep – bringing Jordy Mercer home along for the ride.

However, Toronto answered back, tying the game with a run-scoring double off the bat of Munenori Kawasaki. The Jays’ tacked on one more run in the fourth – but by then, Pirates’ right-hander Charlie Morton was settled in for the long-haul.

Morton tossed six innings on Saturday, allowing three earned on six hits, striking out three and walking two. On the spring, the right-hander has largely struggled – with an earned run average north of 6.00 in Grapefruit League action; and in the final weeks of spring, he’ll be an arm to keep on moving forward.

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With the game tied 2-2 in the second, an RBI groundout off the bat of Sean Rodriguez put the Pirates ahead for good and a sacrifice fly by Corey Hart in the third pushed things to 4-2. Toronto answered back thanks to a Danny Valencia blast – his second on the spring – but it would be the last tally the Jays would manage on the day.

Pittsburgh added four runs in the sixth – one coming off the bat of catching prospect Reese McGuire and the others coming via a bases-clearing RBI double from hometown kid Neal Walker – who is batting a red-hot .366 so far this spring.

Andrew Mccutcheon added a 2-for-4 afternoon with a run, raising his average to .286 after struggling early on and battling an injury for most of March. Francisco Cervelli also added a pair of knocks in the win at McKechnie Field.

What Stood Out:

Charlie Morton took a step in the right direction on Saturday, turning in a solid afternoon of work on the mound. Despite his struggles this spring, there’s no doubt that the right-hander will be a big part of the Bucs’ pitching staff in 2015.

So far this spring, Morton has accumulated 15.1 innings of work – and during that stretch, he has just three strikeouts. Granted, he notched only 126 strikeouts in 157 1/3 innings of work with the big league club last year, so he’s not necessarily a strikeout pitcher. But that being said, you’d like to see that number improve as the spring winds down.

What’s Next:

The Pirates (12-10) will do battle with the new-look Atlanta Braves (12-13) on Sunday at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, with Stolmy Pimentel taking the ball for Pittsburgh.

The right-hander has struggled to a 6.75 ERA this spring, and will be opposed by former St. Louis Cardinals’ righty Shelby Miller (1-1, 4.38 ERA), who was dealt to Atlanta this winter. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. ET.

Next: Bench assignments now clearer for the Pirates