NEW YORK — The Pirates struggled to score Monday afternoon off New York Mets starter Jacob deGrom, but after 62⁄3 innings and 122 pitches, he yielded to his bullpen.
Then the Pirates took charge.
First baseman Gaby Sanchez led the way, hitting a solo, pinch-hit home run in the eighth and a key RBI single in the ninth to spark a 5-3 comeback win.
The Pirates have won six of their past eight games and are 23-27 after opening their 10-game road trip with the victory.
“You know when your spot is coming up to pinch-hit,” said Sanchez, who got ready in the batting cage several innings before his first at-bat. “You stretch, go and hit. When our number is called, we can go up there and give a good at-bat.”
The Pirates trailed, 2-0, before Sanchez’s homer against left-hander Scott Rice to open the eighth. That cut the Mets lead to 2-1. He was pinch-hitting for Ike Davis, a former Met, who was hitless with a walk in his return to Citi Field for the first time since his April 18 trade to the Pirates.
Then Jose Tabata pinch-hit for Jordy Mercer and drove in Starling Marte, who had doubled, with a single against veteran reliever Jose Valverde to tie the score, 2-2.
“Not a whole lot was happening for us. We had some very productive at-bats late, and the bullpen did a nice job finishing it out,” said manager Clint Hurdle. “We’ve had a much better year pinch-hitting. They’ve responded in a very good way this year. Some big hits from all of them.”
In the ninth, Sanchez singled off Valverde with two runners on, scoring Neil Walker, who had singled with one out. Andrew McCutchen, who walked for the second time in the game and 38th time this season, also scored when the ball got past catcher Juan Centeno on a throwing error by Mets left fielder Curtis Granderson.
Russell Martin tacked on a fifth run, scoring Sanchez with a double off reliever Carlos Torres.
Sanchez said the go-ahead RBI was far more satisfying than the homer.
“[Rice] had thrown me three off-speed pitches before that. I knew he had a good heater and can throw it at any point. So, it was just basically trying to put the barrel to the ball,” said Sanchez. “You’re always going to be satisfied with the go-ahead hit, no matter what. Home runs are great, but go-ahead RBIs are going to trump that.”
Mark Melancon gave up a solo homer to Lucas Duda in the ninth, ending the closer’s streak of 86 innings without allowing a home run, dating to April 14, 2013. But Melancon got his 10th save with a flyball and two strikeouts to end the game.
The Mets grabbed a 2-0 lead against Pirates starter Brandon Cumpton in the fifth.
With two outs, deGrom singled for the second time in the game, and Cumpton issued his first walk of the day to Juan Lagares.
Daniel Murphy’s single drove in deGrom, and Lagares was credited with the second run after a lengthy umpire review overturned an out call at the plate. Martin was ruled to be in violation of the new home-plate collision rule for blocking the plate with his leg as he took a throw from Pedro Alvarez and tagged out Lagares.
The Pirates got a solid outing from Cumpton in his return to the majors.
His challenge was to get past the sixth and show he can get through the lineup three times.
He finished just shy of that goal, but enjoyed a quality start, giving up seven hits, two runs — one earned — with a walk and one strikeout in six innings.
“Used his fastball both sides of the plate, kept the ball down, mixed in the slider,” said Hurdle. “It was a very efficient outing. A lot of first-pitch strikes, a lot of batters retired in three pitches or less. He’s aggressive, competes; he makes things happen. The one inning they nicked him, was two outs, nobody on. Was a very good outing for him. Thought he competed very well today.”
Cumpton gave up a well-hit double to Bobby Abreu with one out in the sixth, but escaped the inning with a groundout and flyball to finish his six innings. The fifth also could’ve gotten away from him, but didn’t.
“I had a tough break there, tried to keep my nose down, keep grinding,” said Cumpton. “Today, I struggled with my slider a little. Didn’t throw many changeups at all, but toward the end of the game it dug me out on a couple of hitters.
“It would’ve been easier if I had a slider. I struggled with it. But went as deep as I could and kept us in the ball game.”
Cumpton said he is viewing the situation as a spot start and not assuming anything after being recalled to replace Wandy Rodriguez in the rotation. Rodriguez was designated for assignment Thursday after a poor outing against the Baltimore Orioles in which he gave up six runs in 12⁄3 innings and left him with a 6.75 ERA.
First Published May 26, 2014 4:53 PM