Game 76: Mercer powers up

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Story and video by Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Getty Images

After slugging two-run homer, Jordy Mercer is greeted at the plate by Andrew McCutchen
After slugging two-run homer, Jordy Mercer is greeted at the plate by Andrew McCutchen.

ST. LOUIS — Jordy Mercer took some good-natured ribbing from his teammates about his postgame workout habits on Saturday. Whatever routine Mercer is using, it’s working. He smacked his seventh homer — a two-run shot in the fourth off Lance Lynn — and collected three RBI in the 7-3 rout of the Cardinals.

In April, Mercer hit just .220 with a .609 OPS. He got two homers and nine RBI over the first 24 games of the season. Over his past 30 games, Mercer is batting .360 with eight doubles, three triples, five homers and 17 RBI. He has the third-best batting average among NL shortstops.

“With Jordy … I mean, same old freakin’ story, guys,” pitcher Gerrit Cole said. “Jordy and April don’t agree with each other. That’s fine. Jordy’s one of the more stalwart shortstops in the league. He’s going to put quality at-bats together and hit .270-.280 with 10 pops every year. It’s always great to have a player like that on your side.”

Mercer’s .793 OPS is on track to be a career best. He’s only five shy of matching his career high for home runs, set in 2014, his first season as the everyday shortstop. Where does that power come from? “For me, being tall and long, if I can get some extension and some flex in the barrel, the ball tends to jump a little bit more,” Mercer said. “That’s what every hitter wants to do, get extended. But, for me, it definitely helps my power.”

>>> Keep an eye on LHP Steven Brault at Triple-A Indianapolis. Through his first 20 starts with Indy, the Indians went 4-16. The team has won eight of his past nine starts. Brault went 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA in five starts in May, and this month is 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA over five starts. Yesterday, Brault tossed seven innings in the first game of a doubleheader vs. Louisville and gave up two runs on seven hits, walked three and stuck out five. He also delivered an RBI double.

>>> UPDATE 4:49 PM CT – Gregory Polanco was benched today after going 0 for 9 in this series. He sat out Wednesday’s game in Milwaukee, then went 2 for 4, including a homer, on Thursday. “He’s looked a little disconnected at the plate,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “There’s been a lot of barrel in and out of the zone and a lot of head (movement) in and out of the zone. I want him to clean his slate. We’ll see if we can get him ignited.”

>>> UPDATE 4:53PM CT – Top prospect OF Austin Meadows (torn hamstring) got a platelet-rich plasma injection last week when he was examined by team doctors in Pittsburgh. Meadows is expected to be out two to four weeks. That means Meadows might not be ready for an immediate callup if Andrew McCutchen is traded at the July 31 non-waiver deadline.

>>> Yinz want links? I’ve got links

Pirates 7, Cardinals 3: Gerrit Cole puts his foot down, squarely on the Cardinals’ throats

Notebook: In which John Jaso offers advice about concussions to Francisco Cervelli

>>> Sunday, Pirates at Cardinals, 8:05 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: ESPN. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Pirates (34-40): Adam Frazier 7, Josh Harrison 4, John Jaso 9, David Freese 5, Josh Bell 3, Andrew McCutchen 8, Jordy Mercer 6, Elias Diaz 2, RHP Chad Kuhl (2-6, 5.46)

Cardinals (33-39): Matt Carpenter 3, Tommy Pham 8, Steven Piscotty 9, Randal Grichuk 7,  Yadier Molina 2, Aledmys Diaz 6, Paul De Jong 4, Greg Garcia 5, RHP Mike Leake (5-6, 3.03)

Gamecast: Friday’s game was the fourth time in his past six outings in which Cardinals closer Seung Hwan Oh had allowed a run. His four losses are his most in any MLB season and tie his most in any season in Japan or Korea. … Aledmys Diaz leads the majors with 18 infield hits. … Kuhl is 0-2 with a 4.85 ERA in three career starts vs. the Cardinals. … Leake is riding a team-worst four-game losing streak, which is one shy of his career worst (April 10, 2012 to May 11, 2012). … Leake has won nine of his past 11 decisions vs. the Pirates, going back to September 2012.

>>> Monday: Off

>>> Tuesday, Rays at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM. Rays: RHP Alex Cobb (6-5, 4.05) Pirates: RHP Trevor Williams (3-3, 5.09)

>>> Wednesday, Rays at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM. Rays: LHP Blake Snell (0-4, 4.71) Pirates: RHP Ivan Nova (7-5, 3.06)

>>> Thursday, Rays at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM. Rays: RHP Chris Archer (6-4, 3.97) Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (3-2, 3.33)

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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