Home Pittsburgh Sports College Football Pirates open series vs. Mets with 3-2 win in 11

Pirates open series vs. Mets with 3-2 win in 11

It took roughly two hours for the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets to play the first eight innings of their series-opener Friday night at PNC Park. 90 minutes later, Jordy Mercer singled up the middle to score Andrew McCutchen with two outs in the 11th inning which gave the Pirates a 3-2 victory.

“I knew that if I got it through, someway, somehow [McCutchen’s] going to get home,” Mercer said.

The Pirates (55-36) got on the board early Friday night, as Pedro Alvarez mashed the first pitch he saw from Jeremy Hefner in the first inning into the visitor’s bullpen in left-center field for a two-run home run.

“Fastball, middle away,” Alvarez said. “I just try to hit the pitch where it’s pitched and make good contact. I’m really not worried about putting too much on the ball, I can’t really control the home runs.”

“Obviously, with the drama along the way, to hit a home run on the first at-bat I heard guys bumping gums about that,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Little did we know that would be the last thing we’d bump gums about on offense for a while.”

But Hefner allowed just one hit over the next six innings he pitched, as the Mets (40-49) climbed back on a RBI single by David Wright in the sixth, later tied the game in the seventh on a solo home run by Kirk Nieuwenhuius.

Hefner dueled with Pirates’ starter Charlie Morton, as each pitcher worked through the seventh inning and left the game tied at 2-2. Morton’s seven innings entailed two runs on six hits, a walk, and four strikeouts over 93 pitches.

“Pretty good, except for the home run,” Morton said about his start. “I think in a lot of ways, I’m better than I was before [surgery].”

Meanwhile, Hefner continued his hot streak as he allowed two runs on just three hits as Alvarez’s home run was the only damage against the righty. Since June 1, Hefner owns the best ERA in the league.

But neither pitcher figured in the decision, as he bullpens took over and the Pirates’ relievers once again won out. Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli, Tony Watson, Bryan Morris, and Vin Mazzaro combined to pitch four innings of three-hit baseball, and Mazzaro earned his fifth win of the season with a perfect 11th frame.

“We’ve got a bunch of bulldogs in that bullpen, they just compete and come after guys,” Alvarez said. “They just battle every single time they come out there, no matter what the score is, no matter the situation.”

The bullpen’s collective effort paid off, with just one man making it past second base and only three hits and a walk surrendered to the Mets after the seventh inning.

“I liked the way our guys worked, especially liked Morton’s outing,” Hurdle said. “I liked the way we were able to finish up after that and keep them at two. Morris got a big out in a big part of the game, Melancon was efficient, Grilli, and then Mazzaro showed up again.”

Although the Pirates won in the 11th, they had a golden opportunity in the ninth when Starling Marte led off with a double. But Jose Tabata bunted him to third, and New York manager Terry Collins maneuvered through the heart of the order with multiple pitching changes and an intentional walk to Andrew McCutchen that extended the contest to extra innings.

“That was a sign I put on to bunt,” Hurdle said. “Number one, unless [Tabata] drives the run in, McCutchen’s not going to hit. If he doesn’t drive the run in, we’re giving up 90 feet and arguably the hottest hitter on our team is Pedro Alvarez, and if you don’t like Alvarez hitting off a lefty with first and third, I like it. That’s what went behind the decision.”

Ultimately, even though the situation didn’t pan out as Hurdle hoped, Mercer came through in the 11th to give the Pirates their seventh extra-innings win in 2013.

“He just stood in there, saw something he liked,  and he got after it and kept it in the middle,” Hurdle said. “He continues to battle, he had a couple of good at-bats tonight with nothing to show for it. When the field opens up for him in the middle, and to right field, that’s when he’s at his best.



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