PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle's nickname for second baseman Neil Walker is "Dennis the Menace."
Considering the way Walker tormented Miami on Friday night, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen would be hard-pressed to disagree.
Walker broke a tie with a lead-off homer in the fifth then used a little trickery to turn a crucial double play in the eighth to help Pittsburgh to a 4-3 victory.
The affable Walker offered a sheepish "no comment" when asked if he actually tagged Miami's Justin Ruggiano between first and second base to snuff out a late Miami rally. Replays indicated Walker's glove may have missed Ruggiano, though that didn't stop second base umpire Dan Iassogna from making a fist to indicate Ruggiano was out.
"I didn't take acting class in high school," Walker said with a laugh.
Maybe, but Walker and the rest of the Pirates are starting to get pretty comfortable of playing the part of contender.
Tonight: Miami Marlins at Pittsburgh Pirates, 7:05 p.m.
Pitching matchup: Marlins RHP Carlos Zambrano (5-7) vs. Pirates RHP A.J. Burnett (10-3)
Pedro Alvarez hit his 20th homer of the season, Andrew McCutchen had two hits to boost his batting average to a major-league best .372 and Kevin Correia (7-6) overcame a shaky start to win his fifth consecutive decision as the Pirates moved to a season-best 12 games over .500 (52-40) and remained a half-game behind Cincinnati for first place in the NL Central.
Joel Hanrahan survived a rocky ninth to pick up his 27th save for Pittsburgh, which has the best home record (30-14) in baseball. The Pirates' 27 comeback victories trail only the 29 by the New York Yankees.
"This is a really resilient group," Walker said. "We feel confident no matter who is out on the mound."
Jose Reyes had three hits, including his fifth homer of the season, for the Marlins. John Buck singled and doubled for Miami, which has dropped three straight and seven of 10. Ricky Nolasco (8-8) walked one and struck out seven in six innings but couldn't protect a pair of early two-run leads.
"It seems like we're rewinding a movie," Guillen said. "We have a few opportunities and we don't get it done early, and then late we have more opportunities and we can't get it done."
The Marlins went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners, including two in the seventh and two in the ninth.
"We had how many hits, 13 hits... and we only got three runs?" Guillen said. "We don't have any choice. We have to be better with people in scoring position."
Correia came in looking to win his fifth straight for the first time in his career but got off to a bumpy start. Reyes took the second pitch of the game and drilled it over the fence in right-center field for his 17th career homer leading off a game. Emilio Bonifacio followed with a single, promptly stole two bases and scored on a fielders' choice by Carlos Lee to give the Marlins a 2-0 lead.
Yet just as he did against Milwaukee last Saturday when he spotted the Brewers an early 2-0 lead, Correia settled down and gave Pittsburgh's red-hot bats a chance to catch up.
"It was just a battle," Correia said. "I get down early but I know it's not over and I'm able to keep us in it almost every time."
The Pirates eventually tied it at 3 in the fourth as Alvarez drilled a pitch from Nolasco into the stands in right and Rod Barajas doubled and scored on a single by Clint Barmes.
Alvarez has as many home runs in 83 games this season as he did in the first 164 games of his career combined. Then again, he's just trying to keep pace on an offense that has somehow morphed from the worst in baseball in April and May into the best in the majors since June 1.
And it's not just McCutchen doing damage. Walker's been pretty good in his own right, hitting .485 during a 17-game hitting streak that ended Wednesday. He bounced back with two hits Friday, including a homer to right leading off the fifth that put Pittsburgh in front on a night he lifted his average to .301.
The Pirates, who hit 107 homers last year, have 103 with 70 games left in the season.
The bullpen and a little defense made the lead stand up. Jared Hughes bailed Chris Resop out of a two-on, one-out jam in the seventh and Hanrahan again teetered on the verge of disaster in the ninth.
Omar Infante led off with a single then moved to third on Austin Kearns' single with one out. Hanrahan regained his command, however, and struck out Reyes and Bonifacio to end it.
"I don't know why I made it interesting, but I found a way to get out of it," Hanrahan said.
NOTES: The series continues Saturday when Pittsburgh's A.J. Burnett (10-3, 3.78 ERA) faces Miami's Carlos Zambrano (5-7, 4.22). ... Marlins 3B Hanley Ramirez entered as a pinch-runner in the ninth. Ramirez was held out of the lineup due to an infection in his right hand. ... The sellout was Pittsburgh's 10th of the season through 44 home dates. The club record for sellouts in a season is 19 set at PNC Park during its debut season in 2001.