Less than 24 hours after their playoff chances officially died, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ saw any feasible opportunity for their first winning season in 20 years fly over the Citi Field fences in a 6-5 loss to the Mets.
David Wright’s three-run homer in the fifth broke a 3-3 tie, chased ineffective Pirates starter Kevin Correia and gave Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey enough support to earn his 20th win of the season in front of his home fans. The 37-year-old Dickey continued his remarkable career revival with 13 strikeouts Thursday afternoon, mostly on the strength of his elusive knuckler.
Rod Barajas and Alex Presley hit homers for Pittsburgh (76-80), the latter a two-run drive that cut the Mets’ lead to one in the ninth, but Bobby Parnell relieved the struggling Jon Rauch to get the final two outs.
Jose Tabata lined out to end the ballgame in the No. 3 spot after he replaced the injured Andrew McCutchen. The Pirates’ star centerfielder banged his left knee off the ground while attempting a diving catch in the bottom of the seventh. McCutchen went 0-for-4 while falling behind San Francisco’s Buster Posey in the NL batting race.
The Bucs will likely need McCutchen at close to full capacity for their upcoming six-game homestand that closes the regular season. Pittsburgh needs to win all six against the Reds and Braves to post an 82-80 record. A 5-1 finish will also allow them to avoid a losing season after peaking at 16 games over .500 in early August.
The Pirates are 13-34 in their last 47 largely due to shoddy pitching, and Correia continued that unfortunate trend Thursday. The unremarkable righty allowed six runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings, squandering early leads of 2-0 and 3-1. In addition to Wright’s game-deciding dinger, Correia served up Ike Davis’ 31st homer of the season in the second.
He would’ve allowed another long ball in the inning if not for an astounding catch by rightfielder Travis Snider. Mike Baxter ripped an 0-2 pitch that appeared destined to tie the game 2-2, but Snider climbed the fence and snatched the potential homer away while reaching at least two feet over the wall.
But Snider and the Pirates defense couldn’t spare Correia from the five-run Mets rally to come. After Scott Hairston stroked an RBI single in the fourth, Daniel Murphy drove in a run in the fifth, setting up Wright’s opposite-field shot with one out in the fifth.
The Pirates had early success against Dickey, capped by Barajas’ book-rule RBI double and Jordy Mercer’s infield single that pushed the visitors’ lead to 2-0 in the second.
Davis and Barajas exchanged homers to maintain the Pirates’ two-run advantage, but almost any lead is tenuous these days for the Bucs, who finished the year 34-46 on the road.
Pittsburgh hopes to get a better performance from A.J. Burnett Friday night at PNC Park against the Reds. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 as Cincinnati sends Homer Bailey out to oppose the Pirates’ nominal ace.