The Pittsburgh Pirates scored early and late to take down the New York Mets 3-2 in the opening game of their three-game series on Friday at PNC Park before a sellout crowd. With the victory in 11 innings, the Bucs are now 7-5 in extra inning games this season.
In the bottom of the eleventh with two out, Jordy Mercer singled up the middle into center field to bring home Andrew McCutchen to end the game. The Pirates had chances to win in the ninth and 10th innings, but couldn’t come through in three at-bats with a runner at third base.
With the dramatic victory, Pittsburgh is 55-36 and just one game back of the first-place St Louis Cardinals in the National League Central. The Cards downed the Cubs 3-2 on Friday night and move their record to 56-35.
Charlie Morton gave up just two earned runs, six hits and a walk to go along with four strikeouts on 93 pitches in his longest outing of the season since coming back from elbow surgery last montth. The righthander plowed through five innings before giving up a run in the sixth and worked a total of seven innings.
The call to the bullpen over the next four innings was answered by righties Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli, then lefthander Tony Watson, and finally righthanders Bryan Morris and Vin Mazzaro to bring home the victory. Mazzaro struck out two in the eleventh and improved his record to 5-2.
Pittsburgh got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first, when with two out Pedro Alvarez sent the ball over the center field wall that scored Jose Tabata. It was Alvarez’ team-leading 24th homer of the season.
Starling Marte had two of the Bucs’ six hits on the night. Pittsburgh has now won two in a row after losing four straight.
Mets’ righthander Jeremy Hefner saw his record drop to 4-7 as he gave up two earned runs on three hits, struck out three, and did not issue a walk over seven innings. It was Gonzalez Germen, making his major league debut as New York’s sixth pitcher of the night, who was saddled with the loss.
The Mets cut the Pirates lead in half in the top of the sixth when David Wright singled to right field that scored Eric Young with two outs. In the top of the seventh Kirk Nieuwenhuis sent a one-out, solo home run to right-center field to knot the game up at 2-2.
The game was played before a crowd of 39,036 at PNC Park. Prior to Friday’s game, the Pirates had posted six sellouts this season. They have averaged 32,696 fans for their last 12 home games.
The middle game of the series will be at 7:15 p.m. Saturday. The Mets (40-49) will send righthander Carlos Torres (0-1, 0.51 ERA) to the mound while the Pirates will go with righthander A.J. Burnett (4-6, 3.05 ERA). Burnett will be making his 17th start of the season on Saturday and he has 102 strikeouts this season. The game will be broadcast on FOX.
From The Clipboard: The players in Home Run Derby can choose their pitcher for the event. Pedro Alvarez has selected Rudy Pena, a former coach in the Pirates farm system with stops at High Single-A Hickory in 2008, the Gulf Coast League Pirates from 2009 to 2011 and High Single-A Bradenton in 2012. Pena is the nephew of former Bucs catcher Tony Pena….Starling Marte is the first player in Bucs history to have at least 32 extra base hits and 25 stolen bases before the All-Star break….Clint Hurdle’s crew has gone 54-31 in their last 85 games after starting the season with a 1-5 record….Jordy Mercer went into Friday night’s contest hitting .293 in his last 13 home games.