Slowly, the Pirates offense inflicted more and more damage against the New York Mets Saturday night at PNC Park.
Two hits in the third. Three hits in the fifth, this time driving in a run. Two more hits in the sixth, one a tying home run.
Finally, in the seventh, the Pirates punished the Mets bullpen for its mistakes and took the lead.
In a 4-2 win, the Pirates sent eight batters to the plate against three different pitchers in the seventh, eking out as much offense with their patience as with their bats.
The Pirates have won three games in a row and moved back to 20 games over .500 at 56-36 with one game remaining before the All-Star break. Gerrit Cole will take the mound today as the Pirates have a chance at a sweep.
Andrew McCutchen went 2 for 4 and drove in two runs. His sixth-inning home run tied the score, his single in the seventh broke the tie.
A.J. Burnett allowed two runs in 52/3 innings, striking out eight. Justin Wilson, Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli closed out the game.
"You never want to come out of a game, but you feel pretty good with these guys coming in behind you," Burnett said.
Grilli earned his 29th save, and Wilson (6-1) earned a win in relief. The trio combined for 31/3 scoreless innings, struck out two without walking a batter and allowed one hit.
"It makes it easy knowing they're doing what they're doing," McCutchen said.
Mets starter Carlos Torres allowed one run in five innings without walking a batter.
"We weren't able to really get a bead on Torres," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Kept us off balance [with] the curveball, the slider."
Pinch-hitter Travis Snider and Jose Tabata singled in the seventh. McCutchen's hit tipped off third baseman David Wright's glove and into left, scoring Snider and giving the Pirates a 3-2 lead.
Left-hander Josh Edgin entered and walked Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin. The latter forced in a run, and the Pirates led, 4-2.
Hurdle suggested the Pirates calm down at the plate after their own bullpen takes over.
"They seem to take longer looks," Hurdle said. "We didn't chase, we didn't bite. When we got pitches to hit, we hit them."
Torres made his first start with the Mets and had not started a game since 2010 before Saturday. He joined the rotation after Shaun Marcum's injury, and Matt Harvey's skipped start lined up Torres against the Pirates.
The Mets had used him as a long reliever in 10 games before Saturday, and he had an 0.51 ERA. He started 12 games for Class AAA Las Vegas and had a 3.89 ERA.
McCutchen tied the score by leading off the sixth with his 10th homer. Reliever David Aardsma's first pitch brushed McCutchen back. McCutchen looked into the dugout as if to say, "I got this," according to Hurdle, then hit the second one into the seats in center.
"Just ready to hit," McCutchen said. "Come up and in -- bear down and be ready to hit."
A four-pitch walk to Marlon Byrd in the fourth burned Burnett. Kirk Nieuwenhuis doubled to the wall in right-center field in the next at-bat, scoring Byrd and giving the Mets a 1-0 lead.
Eric Young Jr. and Daniel Murphy also had consecutive singles to start the fifth, bringing Wright to the plate with runners on first and third. Wright hit a weak grounder to third. Alvarez threw home, and home-plate umpire Brian Gorman called Young out on a play that could have gone either way.
Murphy and Wright took off on a double steal to take away the double-play threat with Ike Davis at the plate, but Davis struck out on a weak swing at a curveball. Byrd grounded up the middle. Clint Barmes took a split second too long to throw, Byrd was safe and the Mets had a 2-0 lead.
Burnett walked John Buck, his third unintentional walk of the game, to start the sixth. After two quick outs, Young Jr. singled, putting runners on first and third. Hurdle replaced Burnett with the left-handed Wilson, who struck out the left-handed Murphy looking to end the inning.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published July 14, 2013 2:30 AM