Through five innings, Kevin Correia’s Sunday start versus the Mets couldn’t have been much better. After punching a first-pitch curveball from New York’s Chris Capuano to deep left field in the bottom of the fifth, ending a personal 0-for-31 stretch at the plate, Correia had accomplished something that no Met had managed to do against him yet — reach second base.
Correia’s stellar outing quickly turned sour, however, and the Pirates’ bullpen couldn’t stop the bleeding as the Mets turned a pitcher’s duel into a 7-0 blowout at PNC Park. Jose Reyes went 3-for-5 with a home run, Daniel Murphy and Angel Pagan had multi-hit games and Carlos Beltran drove in a pair of runs in support of Capuano, who improved to 5-6 by baffling Bucs batters with his changeup for seven innings.
“It was well played until the end, and then the game got away from us,” said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who watched the contest slip away from the clubhouse after getting ejected on a controversial call at the center field wall in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Correia (8-5) retired 14 straight Mets hitters to begin the game before Jason Bay singled past a diving Ronny Cedeno in the top of the fifth inning. The Pirates’ starter then tallied his first hit since August 21, 2010, in the bottom half of the frame.
But Correia lost the shutout in the seventh inning, and the game got out of hand in the eighth.
With one out in the seventh inning, Daniel Murphy singled to center field on a high curveball. Murphy took off on a 2-1 pitch with the next batter, Angel Pagan, at the plate and pulled into third base when Pagan hit a line drive single to center field.
Bay worked a 3-1 count against Correia and then hit a medium-depth fly ball to center field. McCutchen made the catch and fired home, but Murphy slid in safe with time to spare.
That’s when things got confusing. The Pirates trotted off the field and the run was taken off the board for a brief moment, prompting the crowd of 26,452 to think that Murphy was ruled out for tagging up at third before McCutchen made the catch.
That wasn’t the case, however. The Pirates did turn a double play, but not before the Mets scored the game’s first run.
Pagan was ruled out because he went past second base on Bay’s sac fly and failed to re-touch the bag on his way back to first base. The Mets’ run still stood, though, as Murphy scored before the Bucs could capitalize on Pagan’s base running gaffe by turning a bizarre 8-2-3-6 double play.
“It’s a timing double play,” Hurdle said. “It’s not a force play under their definition. That’s the fourth time now that I’ve seen that play and the run scored every time. And if you read the rule, it comes down to one word that sticks out — if it’s a force play. And the appeal [by the Pirates at second base] doesn’t make it a force. Now whether that’s right or not, I don’t know. But that’s what I’ve seen.”
To lead off the bottom of the seventh, Lyle Overbay drove a Capuano offering deep to center field that set off fireworks — both beyond the outfield wall and in the Pirates’ dugout — without putting a run on the board.
Pagan tracked Overbay’s clout to the wall, leaped and came down with the ball in his glove. Fireworks went off beyond Pagan, as someone evidently thought that the ball had cleared the wall for a home run. But it stayed in the park and the umpires ruled that Pagan made the catch.
Hurdle, believing the ball bounced off the wall before Pagan snagged it, came out of the dugout to argue and was tossed by crew chief Jerry Layne.
“I saw the ball coming off the wall on the catch, and then I saw the center fielder being surprised that he caught it,” Hurdle said. “They [the umpires] got together and they still missed it.”
“I guess it’s not walk-away Sunday today,” Hurdle continued. “It’s a double, a guy on second in a one-run ball game, leading off with no outs [if the ruling was changed]. It didn’t happen that way.”
Instead, Capuano got out of the inning by striking out Brandon Wood swinging and getting Ronny Cedeno to ground out to shortstop.
“It’s one of those things that’s tough to call,” Overbay said. “I thought [Pagan] caught it.”
Correia retired Josh Thole and Ruben Tejada to start the top of the eighth and then got ahead of pinch-hitter Willie Harris 1-and-2. But Harris worked the count full, taking a pair of cutters off the outside corner of the plate, and then singled to right field on a letter-high fastball. That was the start of a four-run outburst in the inning for the Mets.
Reyes singled in the next at-bat and Justin Turner doubled to deep right field on a high, 2-0 fastball from Correia, scoring Harris and advancing Reyes to third base.
Chris Resop came on in relief of Correia and Beltran greeted him with a two-RBI single to right field on a first-pitch fastball, giving the Mets a 4-0 advantage.
That closed the book on Correia’s afternoon — 7.2 innings pitched, seven hits, four earned runs, four Ks and zero walks. He threw 62 of his 93 pitches for strikes (65 percent), including 22 first-pitch strikes to 29 batters faced (76 percent).
Daniel Moskos was brought in and got ahead 0-and-2 against Murphy. But Murphy fought off an inside fastball for a single to shallow right field that moved Jason Pridie, who pinch-ran for Beltran, to third base. Pagan then pulled a changeup to left field to make it 5-0 New York.
“I’m a pitch away from going eight and giving up one,” Correia said. “I wasn’t in the stretch at all until the fifth, and I never really got comfortable in the stretch after that. I got through it for the most part, but in the eighth I missed the location on a couple of pitches and we couldn’t get that one out in the inning to stay in the game.”
“I don’t think you’re going to see anyone more efficient through the fifth,” Hurdle said. ‘It was an excellent outing for Kevin. Both of those guys out there tonight, Capuano and Kevin, hit their spots. Two different types of pitchers who stayed away from the barrel and kept the ball down with a lot of mis-hits off the bat.”
Capuano threw seven spotless innings for New York, allowing just three hits while striking out five Pirates and walking two. The lefty recorded 11 ground ball outs while flummoxing Pittsburgh (31-33) with his high-80s fastball and high-70s offspeed stuff.
“The changeup, he really had it going on today,” Overbay said. “We knew from the beginning that he had a good changeup and we were sitting back on it, and still we were out in front. I think Brandon Wood said it best — he got a base hit on the changeup and he kept throwing him changeups. That just shows how good his changeup was today.”
Capuano threw 28 of his 36 changeups for strikes (78 percent), getting nine Pirates hitters to swing and miss nine times when he pulled the string.
The Mets (32-33) added two more runs in the top of the ninth by going deep twice against Daniel McCutchen. Pinch-hitter Scott Hairston hammered a fastball into the left field bleachers and Reyes roped a McCutchen fastball over the Clemente Wall in right field.
“It was one of those games where we just never got it going offensively, and once they scored a run, the flood gates just kind of opened,” Correia said.
CORREIA ENDS HITLESS STREAK
Correia’s fifth-inning double off Capuano ended an 0-for-31 streak at the plate dating back to last season. Correia’s last hit before Sunday was on August 21, 2010, when he singled off Mike McClendon of the Milwaukee Brewers.
“It was nice to finally get that over with, but I’d rather go oh-for and win a game any day,” Correia said.
BACKSTOPS COUNT RISING
The injury-depleted Pirates have already used five catchers in 2011, the first time since 2007 that the club has burned through so many backstops in a season. Ryan Doumit (on the 15-day DL with an ankle injury), Chris Snyder (60-day DL, back surgery), Jason Jaramillo (seven-day DL at Triple-A Indianapolis, sore elbow), Dusty Brown and Wyatt Toregas have all appeared behind the plate for the Pirates.
The last time the Bucs used six catchers in a season was 1988 (Mike LaValliere, Junior Ortiz, Tom Prince, Ruben Rodriguez, Mike Diaz, Dave Hostetler).
METS CALL UP CARRASCO
The Mets recalled RHP D.J. Carrasco from Triple-A Buffalo prior to Sunday’s game, optioning RHP Dale Thayer to Triple-A to open up a roster spot. Carrasco, 34, pitched for the Pirates in 2010 before a July 31 trade sent him to the Arizona Diamondbacks along with Ryan Church and Bobby Crosby in exchange for Chris Snyder and Pedro Ciriaco.
METS’ D IS OFFENSIVE
The Mets have been the worst defensive team in the majors this season according to Ultimate Zone Rating, a stat that measures how many runs a player has saved or cost his club compared to an average fielder at a given position. Collectively, Mets’ defenders have been about 17 runs worse than average this year. The Pirates, meanwhile, rank 11th in the majors with five runs saved above average.
RHP Mike Pelfrey (3-4, 5.35 ERA) opposes LHP Paul Maholm (2-7, 3.39 ERA) in the fourth and final game of the series. Pelfrey and Maholm both got rocked when they faced each other at Citi Field on June 2, as Pelfrey allowed seven earned runs in five innings pitched and Maholm coughed up six ER in 5.2 innings as the Pirates squandered what was once a 7-0 lead in an eventual 9-8 loss.