NEW YORK -- After spending much of August fattening up on National League bottom-feeders and other struggling teams, the Mets viewed this weekend's series against the Wild Card-leading Pirates as a test of their mettle. Then the Pirates demonstrated why they're the ones with the league's second-best record in a 3-2, 10-inning win over the Mets at Citi Field on Friday.
Gregory Polanco slashed a go-ahead single off Bobby Parnell, who served up three consecutive hits to open the 10th. Moments later, Aramis Ramirez doubled Pittsburgh's margin with a sacrifice fly off Carlos Torres. Mark Melancon grabbed his MLB-leading 36th save in the bottom of the inning to give the Pirates their sixth victory in eight tries, snapping the Mets' four-game winning streak.
"Tonight was a perfect example of the young man's growing confidence," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Polanco, who has collected a series of late tie-breaking hits for the Bucs and, earlier in Friday's game, bunted for a single to extend his hitting streak to eight games. "He puts down the bunt, then comes up with a really big swing later. He continues to do really good things for us."
Though starting pitchers J.A. Happ and Bartolo Colon both came into the night with checkered recent track records, they allowed nothing more than a solo homer apiece. Colon served his up to Neil Walker in the first inning. Happ allowed his to Yoenis Cespedes in the sixth.
"Pennant races are about good pitching trying to get good hitting out," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "The crowd was into it, huge. Outside of the 10th inning, that was a good ballgame. That was a very very good ballgame."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Alvarez for the defense: In possibly his finest moment as a first baseman, Pedro Alvarez bailed out the Bucs in consecutive late innings. With a man on and two outs in the eighth, he snared Daniel Murphy's ripped grounder with a headlong dive for the unassisted inning-ending out. In the ninth, he gloved shortstop Jung Ho Kang's high-and-wide throw to tag Wilmer Flores' arm before his feet landed atop the base. More >
Don't worry, it's Happ-y: Happ repelled a major Mets threat in the third, which began with a Juan Lagares single and Curtis Granderson double. But with the men on second and third and none out, Happ sandwiched strikeouts of Cespedes and Murphy around an infield pop up by Juan Uribe, keeping his 1-0 lead. More >
Tie game, Yo: Though the Mets hit the ball hard all night versus Happ, they couldn't do any meaningful damage until Cespedes led off the sixth with a game-tying homer. Two batters later, after Murphy doubled, Happ was out of the game.
"Right at the moment, it felt great," Cespedes said. "But we lost so it's insignificant."
1-2-3 inning: It took just 10 pitches for Parnell to unravel in the 10th, giving up hits to Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli and Polanco in succession. Though that snapped a string of five straight scoreless outings for Parnell, pockets of the 38,495 fans at Citi Field booed him as he walked off the field. More >
"There's not many games where you get one in the first, go eight without any more, and come back to put two up in the 10th. Our bullpen work was outstanding." -- Hurdle, on four reliever combining to hold down the Mets for the final 4 2/3 innings.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Friday night's win was the Pirates' 12th consecutive in "bullpen" games (in which neither team's starter gets a decision), MLB's longest such streak since 13 by the 2009 Yankees, and matching the Pittsburgh record set in 1977.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
With one out in the ninth inning, Flores tapped a ball to shortstop, where Kang fielded it and threw wide of first base. First-base umpire Bob Davidson initially ruled that Flores was safe, but the Pirates challenged. A one-minute and 52-second review was enough to reveal that Alvarez actually tagged Flores on his way to the bag.
Pirates:Charlie Morton makes his seventh career start against the Mets, still in search of his first win, at 7:10 p.m. ET on Saturday. The Bucs have gone 10-4 in his starts, their best record behind any starter.
Mets: Now fully immersed in a pennant race, the Mets are expecting "large crowds" on Saturday and Sunday at Citi Field. (They're encouraging fans to take public transportation.) Jon Niese will start the first of those two games on Saturday.