The Pittsburgh Pirates’ playoff chances are officially extinguished and their quest for a winning record just got more difficult, as the New York Mets scored five runs off starter Jeff Locke on their way to a 6-0 win Wednesday night at Citi Field.
Now at 76-79, the Pirates can lose just once in their last seven games (barring rainouts) to post their first winning season since 1992. Pittsburgh can go 5-2 to break even at 81-81, a modest accomplishment after peaking at 16 games over .500 in early August.
One night after they dropped 10 on the Mets, the Pirates were shut out by relative-unknowns Jeremy Hefner and Jeurys Familia. Hefner went seven innings and allowed three hits while striking out seven, preceding Familia’s two hitless frames.
Playing in front of family and friends in his hometown, Pedro Alvarez followed up his four-RBI Tuesday night with a pair of singles. Starling Marte had the other Pirates hit while batting leadoff. Andrew McCutchen went 0-for-3 to drop his batting average to .334, .002 ahead of San Francisco’s Buster Posey for the NL lead in that category.
Rookie lefty Locke remains winless in his MLB career, as he was touched up for run-scoring hits from Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Scott Hairston and Kelly Shoppach in the Mets’ four-run third.
Murphy, Wright and Harrison each collected two hits, and shortstop Ruben Tejada had four, including RBI singles in the fourth and sixth. Centerfielder Andres Torres picked up three hits and scored two runs.
Pittsburgh reliever Chris Leroux came on to escape the fourth after Locke was yanked. Locke struck out five in 3 2/3 innings, but allowed 10 baserunners (nine hits, one walk) in his short outing.
Jeff Karstens pitched two innings, giving up two hits and a run. Chad Qualls and September call-up Bryan Morris polished off the game with a scoreless frame each.
But the Pirates offense couldn’t take advantage of the quality relief pitching, as they mustered only five baserunners all night. They advanced a runner to second base just once, with two outs in the fifth, but pinch-hitter Jeff Clement struck out with Alvarez in scoring position.
The Bucs will aim to split the four-game series with the Mets on Thursday at 1:10 p.m. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey will be in search of his 20th win against Pittsburgh’s Kevin Correia in the team’s final road game of the season. The Pirates are 34-45 away from PNC Park.