Early power surge is key to Pirates' 10-6 win vs. Mets

Four runs in first inning set tone in victory

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NEW YORK -- The Pirates combined power with patience Tuesday night. They used extra-base hits to score early against the New York Mets but forced the opposing pitcher to throw strikes. If the Mets obliged, the Pirates hit them. If not, they watched and took their base.

The result was a 10-6 win at Citi Field.

"We did do a better job of taking ownership of the plate," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We took some walks, we saw some pitches, we stretched some counts and we got balls to hit."

The Pirates took advantage of extra-base hits early, notching two each in the first two innings. All four batters who hit for extra bases eventually scored. They also took advantage of seven walks in the first five innings.

Alex Presley and Josh Harrison each had two hits, and Presley and Andrew McCutchen each doubled. Harrison hit a two-run triple, and Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones each homered.

"We were sitting in pretty good situations where we were in hitter's counts and they kept falling behind," Harrison said.

The Pirates feasted on Collin McHugh, who made his fourth start of the season. Harrison singled and McCutchen doubled in the first, and McHugh walked Jones to load the bases. Gaby Sanchez lined a ball to shallow center that Andres Torres slid for but could not catch. Harrison scored but Jones was forced out at second. Alvarez then hit his 30th home run, giving the Pirates a 4-0 lead.

McHugh left after 11/3 innings in which he allowed seven runs on five hits and three walks.

"It helps the offense a lot because, for one, we were getting that guy's pitch count up," Harrison said. "They got to go to the bullpen earlier, and it allows the guys behind you to see how the guy's attacking and what he's throwing."

Wandy Rodriguez reached on a fielder's choice in the second. Presley doubled, and Harrison's triple scored two runs. McCutchen walked and Jones reached on an error, scoring another run to give the Pirates a 7-3 lead.

A bases-loaded walk to Alvarez in the fifth inning added to the lead.

The Pirates offense has displayed the ability to assemble a big game, though that has happened less frequently in September.

They scored eight runs Sunday, seven Sept. 20 and a combined 16 in consecutive games Sept. 15-16. In five of their past eight games, however, they have scored two runs or fewer.

Rodriguez almost squandered an early Pirates lead in the first inning. He allowed a single to Ruben Tejada before Justin Turner hit his second home run of the season. David Wright hit his 20th homer two pitches later, cutting the lead to 4-3.

Hurdle said the Pirates had a reliever up and ready to go in case he had to pull Rodriguez in the first inning for pitch count reasons. From there, Rodriguez allowed one hit and one walk in his next five innings.

"The first inning I missed a lot of locations," Rodriguez said. "Later, I put the ball on the corner."

Rodriguez (12-13) allowed three runs on four hits in six innings.

He has pitched consistently well since mid-August, a time frame that has not been kind to the Pirates. He left his previous start after four innings, lifted for a pinch-hitter in a time of offensive need. In the other six of his past seven starts, he has pitched at least six innings and allowed three or fewer runs.

Hurdle and trainer Todd Tomczyk came out to check on Rodriguez in the fifth inning, worried he tweaked his side after a minor collision covering first base on a Tejada single, but Rodriguez was fine and stayed in the game.

Chris Resop allowed a leadoff double to Torres in the seventh. Jordany Valdespin's single sent Torres to third, and he scored when Jones bobbled the ball in right field to reduce the lead to 8-4.

Tejada walked, and Jared Hughes replaced Resop. Wright eventually singled, scoring two runs and cutting the lead to 8-6. Resop allowed three runs on two hits in one-third of an inning.

Jason Grilli retired the side in the eighth inning and Joel Hanrahan finished the game in a non-save situation.


Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published September 26, 2012 4:00 AM


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