The Pirates' Josh Harrison an RBI single off of Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey to tie the game, 1-1, in the eighth inning Tuesday at Citi Field in New York.
By Bill Brink Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
NEW YORK -- On paper, the Pirates were patient, waiting for their chance to take advantage of the New York Mets pitching staff.
Perhaps persistent would be a better word.
It took them until the eighth inning, after a never-ending series of strikeouts, groundouts and pop-ups, to move some runners around the bases. Be it patience and waiting out a hot pitcher or a long period of unintended silence, the Pirates bats started putting the ball in play just when they needed to, and not a second before.
Once the offense gained its footing, it did not stop, scoring three runs in the eighth and two in the ninth on the way to a 5-1 win Tuesday night against the Mets at Citi Field.
"We might have just been more stubborn than good [Tuesday night]," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Sometimes, that works; I wouldn't encourage that for an entire season."
The Pirates won their first game at Citi Field in nine tries and have 16 road wins, one fewer than all last season.
For the first seven innings, the game consisted of Mets starter R.A. Dickey's dancing knuckleballs baffling Pirates hitters and James McDonald mixing 95 mph fastballs with knee-buckling curves.
The Mets grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first when Angel Pagan doubled and scored, but failed to get to McDonald, Evan Meek, Jose Veras or Joel Hanrahan, who each pitched a scoreless inning of relief, the rest of the game.
"That's the whole reason we won," said Neil Walker of McDonald.
Of course, Walker had every right to claim his single in the eighth inning as the reason the Pirates won, but instead he added: "We don't even have a chance there late in the game if he doesn't give us good, strong innings that he did."
In the eighth, the Pirates got to Dickey.
As unpredictable as his knuckleball is -- where it goes or how it dips, dives and turns at any time is a pitch-by-pitch mystery, it was equally unpredictable that the most successful hitter against it would be one of the newest Pirates.
Josh Harrison, an infielder promoted Monday from Class AAA Indianapolis and making his major league debut, hit an RBI single in the eighth to tie the score at 1-1, then scored on Walker's two-run single that gave the Pirates the lead.
"It's not like anything I've ever faced before," said Harrison, who went 2 for 4, of the knuckler. "My first at-bat, I saw maybe five of them. I had a pretty good idea of how to see it."
Dickey controlled the Pirates before the eighth while becoming the second consecutive Mets pitcher to post a career high in strikeouts against the Pirates. He retired 13 consecutive batters at one point and struck out 10 in 72/3 innings. Pitching with a partially torn plantar fascia in his right foot, Dickey threw 81 of his 108 pitches for strikes.
As good as Dickey was, McDonald did his best to match him. His fastball reached 95 mph, and he attacked the strike zone, throwing 38 strikes in 61 pitches through four innings. His curveball backed hitters off the plate, fooling Nick Evans in the fourth and Ruben Tejada in the fifth.
"They were good pitches," McDonald said of the two curves for called third strikes. "I feel comfortable with it."
McDonald pitched six innings of one-run ball, striking out five and walking two.
Ronny Cedeno singled to open the eighth, and Jose Tabata got hit by a pitch.
Game: Pirates vs. Mets, 7:10 p.m., Citi Field, New York.
TV, radio: Root Sports, WPGB-FM 104.7.
Pitching: RHP Kevin Correia (7-4, 3.44) vs. LHP Chris Capuano (3-5, 4.94).
Key matchup: Capuano vs. Matt Diaz, who is 4 for 10 in his career against the Mets starter.
Of note: Correia allowed six runs in six innings to the Mets in 2010 while with San Diego in a game the Padres eventually won, 18-6.
Harrison, who already secured his first major league hit with a single in the third, singled to right and scored Cedeno to tie the score, 1-1. He advanced to second on the throw home as Tabata took third.
Andrew McCutchen, who had struck out three times in the game, walked to load the bases for Walker, who hit the two-run single to center that gave the Pirates a 3-1 lead.
"Just to put us ahead late in the game felt really good," Walker said.
Cedeno and Dusty Brown reached base in the ninth, and Tabata walked to load them. Brandon Wood, who had replaced Harrison at third, blooped a two-run single in to left-center field to put the Pirates ahead, 5-1.
It was Wood's first hit since May 21.
"A hit like that can get you moving in the right direction," he said. "I've been working real hard with [hitting coach Gregg] Ritchie and Clint and the guys on my swing and making good strides in the cages and waiting for that to take over in the game."
The same could be said, on a larger scale, about the Pirates' offense, which waited for its chance to score and did not miss out on it once it arrived.