Pirates find solace in Big Apple
By Mike Fitzpatrick
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Josh Bell hit a two-run homer, Gregory Polanco also went deep and the Pittsburgh Pirates took advantage of some dreadful defense by the New York Mets to snap a five-game losing streak with a 6-4 victory Monday night.
In a series opener between tumbling teams, Pittsburgh built a five-run lead and held on to hand the Mets their seventh straight defeat before a mostly quiet crowd of 22,135. New York is 6-24 in its last 30 games — and that 11-1 start to the season feels like ancient history.
Playing at home has hardly helped. The reeling Mets (31-45) have lost 14 of 15 at Citi Field, falling to 13-25 in their own ballpark this season.
Jameson Taillon (5-6) took a two-hit shutout into the seventh inning against a makeshift Mets lineup before New York tried to rally. Consecutive doubles by Jose Reyes and Kevin Plawecki chased Taillon, and a three-run homer by pinch-hitter Wilmer Flores off Tyler Glasnow trimmed Pittsburgh’s lead to 5-4.
Steven Brault entered and threw seven straight balls before recovering to strike out Jose Bautista on a pitch in the dirt. Brault then got Asdrubal Cabrera to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Cabrera also committed an earlier error in the game at second base.
Kyle Crick pitched out of trouble in the eighth, and Elias Diaz provided an insurance run with a sacrifice fly in the ninth. Felipe Vazquez struck out the side for his 15th save in 19 attempts.
Two errors in the first three innings by rookie third baseman Luis Guillorme — touted as a slick fielder — led directly to a pair of unearned runs against Mets starter Seth Lugo (2-3). Josh Harrison hit a sacrifice fly in the first, Polanco had a solo homer in the second and Diaz delivered a two-out RBI single in the third.
It was only the second home run since May 12 for Polanco, who came off the bench the previous three days.
Bell sliced a two-run shot into the left-field corner in the sixth, his first homer since May 31 at St. Louis. Bell has reached base safely in 15 consecutive games. He has three homers in four career games at Citi Field.
After managing only eight runs during their five-game skid, the Pirates reshuffled the top three hitters in their batting order. Leadoff man Starling Marte stole two bases and scored three times as Pittsburgh, which was in first place on May 17, won for just the 11th time in 35 games.
After putting scheduled starter Jason Vargas on the disabled list, the Mets pitched seven relievers Sunday in what amounted to a “bullpen day” against the Dodgers. They combined to give up seven home runs, matching a club record, as New York lost 8-7 in 11 innings. All of them were solo shots. “Other than seven homers, we did OK,” manager Mickey Callaway said with a chuckle. “I think that the game plan was to try and keep us in the game and give us a chance to win when you don’t have a starter, and those guys definitely did that. We were right there.”
Needing a fresh arm in the bullpen, the Mets recalled RHP Tyler Bashlor from Double-A Binghamton and optioned RHP Chris Flexen to Triple-A Las Vegas. The 25-year-old Bashlor was 0-3 with a 2.63 ERA and seven saves in 20 games with Binghamton this season. He made his major league debut in the sixth and worked two innings, giving up Bell’s two-run homer.
DOWN ON THE FARM
Pirates minor leaguer Oddy Nunez pitched a rain-shortened no-hitter Sunday for Class A Bradenton in the Florida State League. Nunez struck out six and walked two over eight innings in a 5-0 win over Fort Myers.
Pirates: Rookie OF Austin Meadows was rested in favor of Polanco but entered as part of a double switch in the seventh. Meadows began the night batting .327 with five homers in 110 at-bats. “Just a day off,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “I’ve got four outfielders, I’ve got three spots.”
Mets: OF Brandon Nimmo didn’t start because of a sore right pinkie after getting hit by a pitch Sunday. But an MRI showed no broken bones and he is day to day. “Real good news,” a relieved Callaway said. Nimmo entered as a pinch-runner in the eighth and stayed in the game to play left field. … Flores and 3B Todd Frazier were rested. Frazier lined out to center field as a pinch-hitter in the fifth.
Pirates: Sporting a 2.22 ERA in his last four road starts, RHP Chad Kuhl (5-5, 4.56 ERA) pitches the middle game of the series Tuesday night. Kuhl had been throwing well until he gave up eight runs and eight hits over two-plus innings last Thursday in a loss to Arizona. He was knocked around in May 2017 during his only outing against the Mets.
Mets: In his last nine starts, LHP Steven Matz (3-5, 3.68) has limited opponents to a .167 batting average with runners on base — and .119 with men in scoring position. Matz was touched up early and allowed a season-high eight hits in a 6-4 loss at Colorado last time out.