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Mercer among Pirates heating up in May

MILWAUKEE -- The Pirates struggled mightily to get a hit with runners in scoring position Tuesday, with Gaby Sanchez's eighth-inning double the lone strike in nine opportunities, but that doesn't mean the Pirates were short on offense.

Several players continued to enjoy May revivals, including Jordy Mercer, who reached base three times and has now delivered eight hits in 15 at-bats over the past four games. His batting average remains at .216 entering Wednesday, but it has elevated 55 points since May 2, and his OPS has upgraded more than 200 points.

"It's just the rhythm of the game; he's a good hitter," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said after Tuesday's game. "He stayed consistent with his work and never brought his bat out to the field. He's just getting better rhythm, more confidence with every game out there.

"The league punched back early, and it took him maybe a little bit longer to figure out the different attack zones they were going to, but he's had pitches to hit throughout the season. The confidence is at a season-high for him right now and he's barreling balls that he might have been fouling off earlier."

Mercer hit .285 with a .772 OPS in 2013 during the Pirates' run to the postseason. He agreed that he hasn't done anything dramatic to bounce back.

"I moved my hands a little bit; I think it's the same swing, just a little bit shorter now," Mercer said. "But I've just been staying the course, not doing much of anything different, and things are starting to turn for me.

"When other guys start hitting, it kind of carries over to other players, too."

That's been evident. Ike Davis struggled Tuesday but came into the series riding a five-game hitting streak, going 10-for-18 in that span with two walks. Jose Tabata, who had three hits Tuesday, has seen his numbers trend gradually upward since mid-April, and Josh Harrison's two-hit night Tuesday gave him five multi-hit games in the month of May.

Harrison has raised his average from .217 at the end of April to .294 entering Wednesday.

"I'm staying within myself," Harrison said after Tuesday's game. "I haven't done anything different, just preparing like I usually do and getting a good pitch."

JR Radcliffe is a contributor to
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