Andrew McCutchen drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in back-to-back innings, propelling the Pittsburgh Pirates to their third straight win, a 4-2 decision over the New York Mets on Saturday night at sold-out PNC Park.
McCutchen laced an RBI single off the glove of Mets third baseman David Wright with two outs in the seventh, pushing the Pirates (56-36) in front for the first time in the game. Russell Martin followed with a bases-loaded walk that gave ace relievers Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli more margin to lock down the win.
The Mets (40-50) jumped to a 2-0 lead after 4 1/2 innings, but the Pirates struck back on Jordy Mercer’s run-scoring single in the fifth and McCutchen’s 10th home run of the season in the sixth, a solo blast off New York’s David Aardsma. Carlos Torres got the start for the visitors, going five innings and allowing one run.
A.J. Burnett tossed the first 5 2/3 innings for the Pirates before giving way to Justin Wilson for the next four outs. Burnett struck out eight Mets, but also permitted seven hits and a pair of runs in his second start since recovering from a strained calf.
The Mets’ Kirk Nieuwenhuis (double) and Marlon Byrd (infield single) earned RBIs early, but New York was shut out over the final four frames. The Pirates, who have won 12 of their last 16, tied St. Louis for first place in the National League Central with their 32nd home triumph, as the Cardinals fell to the Cubs on Saturday.
McCutchen and Clint Barmes (two each) were the only Bucs with multiple hits, but Garrett Jones got the crowd of 39,173 going with a double in the fifth that preceded Mercer’s RBI hit down the right-field line. Mercer won Friday night’s game with a walk-off single in the 11th inning.
Pedro Alvarez went 1 for 3 at the plate, but his biggest impact for Pittsburgh was at his third base position. In the top of the fifth, with the Mets already ahead 1-0, Alvarez gunned down Eric Young, Jr., at home plate as he tried to score on Wright’s infield chopper.
In the bottom of the seventh, Travis Snider reached on a one-out smash that was ruled a single, then Jose Tabata lined a base hit to right with two outs against New York reliever Greg Burke. McCutchen came through with his second RBI of the night to chase Burke, followed by Alvarez’ and Martin’s consecutive walks against Josh Edgin that provided the final margin.
The eighth and ninth innings couldn’t have been more routine for Melancon and Grilli, who navigated their duties on nine and eight pitches, respectively. Melancon’s ERA dropped to 0.81 with his 25th hold, while Grilli earned his MLB-best 29th save in 30 chances.
Jeff Locke was scratched from his Sunday start due to lower-back tightness, so rookie Gerrit Cole will go for the Pirates in the series finale. He will face the Mets’ Dillon Gee at 1:35 p.m. as the two teams wrap up the unofficial first half of the season, leading into the all-star break.
Note: Because of his injury, Locke was taken off the NL all-star team. Fellow Pirates lefthanded starter Francisco Liriano is a viable option to replace Locke on the squad for Tuesday’s exhibition.