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Sanchez, bench power Pirates in rallying to a road victory over Mets

Getty Images - The Pirates' Starling Marte scores a game-tying run in the eighth inning past Mets catcher Juan Centeno on Monday, May 26, 2014, at Citi Field.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Pirates' Starling Marte scores a game-tying run in the eighth inning past Mets catcher Juan Centeno on Monday, May 26, 2014, at Citi Field.
AP - The Pirates' Gaby Sanchez is greeted by teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run against the Mets during the eighth inning, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>The Pirates' Gaby Sanchez is greeted by teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run against the Mets during the eighth inning, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York.
AP - New York Mets center fielder Juan Lagares (12) reacts after hitting a double against the Pirates during the first inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>New York Mets center fielder Juan Lagares (12) reacts after hitting a double against the Pirates during the first inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York.
AP - The Pirates' Starling Marte (6) points to Jose Tabata after scoring on a base hit by Tabata during the eighth inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>The Pirates' Starling Marte (6) points to Jose Tabata after scoring on a base hit by Tabata during the eighth inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York.
AP - The Pirates' Jose Tabata (31) reacts after stealing second base as New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy (28) looks at the ball during the eighth inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>The Pirates' Jose Tabata (31) reacts after stealing second base as New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy (28) looks at the ball during the eighth inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York.
AP - Pirates catcher Russell Martin (55) watches as the throw goes to third as New York Mets' Jacob deGrom (48) heads for home on a base hit by Daniel Murphy during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Pirates catcher Russell Martin (55) watches as the throw goes to third as New York Mets' Jacob deGrom (48) heads for home on a base hit by Daniel Murphy during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York.
AP - Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer (10) turns a double play on New York Mets center fielder Juan Lagares (12) to end the third inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York. Daniel Murphy was out at first.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer (10) turns a double play on New York Mets center fielder Juan Lagares (12) to end the third inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York. Daniel Murphy was out at first.
AP - Pirates second baseman Neil Walker (18) dives unsuccessfully for a ball hit by New York Mets Jacob deGrom during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Pirates second baseman Neil Walker (18) dives unsuccessfully for a ball hit by New York Mets Jacob deGrom during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York.
Getty Images - The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen connects on a single in the first inning against the New York Mets on Monday, May 26, 2014, at Citi Field.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen connects on a single in the first inning against the New York Mets on Monday, May 26, 2014, at Citi Field.
AP - New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy (28) follows through on an RBI double against the Pirates during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy (28) follows through on an RBI double against the Pirates during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York.
AP - Pirates pitcher Brandon Cumpton (58) delivers against the New York Mets during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Pirates pitcher Brandon Cumpton (58) delivers against the New York Mets during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York.
AP - New York Mets manager Terry Collins (10) argues with home plate umpire umpire Laz Diaz (63) and second base umpire Jeff Nelson (45) after a called out at home plate in which New York Mets' Juan Lagares (12) was ruled out during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York. Collins challenged the call and it was overturned giving the Mets two runs.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>New York Mets manager Terry Collins (10) argues with home plate umpire umpire Laz Diaz (63) and second base umpire Jeff Nelson (45) after a called out at home plate in which New York Mets' Juan Lagares (12) was ruled out during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York. Collins challenged the call and it was overturned giving the Mets two runs.
AP - New York Mets starting pitcher Jonathon Niese (49) delivers against the Pirates during the first inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>New York Mets starting pitcher Jonathon Niese (49) delivers against the Pirates during the first inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York.
Getty Images - Laura Carey of the United States Navy sings the national anthem before agame between the New York Mets and the Pirates at Citi Field on May 26, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Laura Carey of the United States Navy sings the national anthem before agame between the New York Mets and the Pirates at Citi Field on May 26, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.
Getty Images - The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen (right) celebrates with Russell Martin after scoring a ninth-inning run against the New York Mets on Monday, May 26, 2014, at Citi Field.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen (right)  celebrates with Russell Martin after scoring a ninth-inning run against the New York Mets on Monday, May 26, 2014, at Citi Field.
Getty Images - Pirates pitcher Brandon Cumpton throws against the New York Mets at Citi Field on May 26, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Pirates pitcher Brandon Cumpton throws against the New York Mets at Citi Field on May 26, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.
Getty Images - Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom throws against the Pirates at Citi Field on May 26, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom throws against the Pirates at Citi Field on May 26, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.
Getty Images - Members of the five branches of the United States military throw the ceremonial first pitches before a game between the Pirates and the the New York Mets at Citi Field on May 26, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Members of the five branches of the United States military throw the ceremonial first pitches before a game between the Pirates and the the New York Mets at Citi Field on May 26, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.
Getty Images - The Pirates' Neil Walker celebrates scoring a ninth-inning run against the New York Mets with teammates in the dugout Sunday, May 26, 2014, at Citi Field.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Pirates' Neil Walker celebrates scoring a ninth-inning run against the New York Mets with teammates in the dugout Sunday, May 26, 2014, at Citi Field.
Getty Images - The Pirates' Gaby Sanchez runs the bases after his eighth-inning home run against Mets reliever Scott Rice on Monday, May 26, 2014, at Citi Field.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Pirates' Gaby Sanchez runs the bases after his eighth-inning home run against Mets reliever Scott Rice on Monday, May 26, 2014, at Citi Field.
Getty Images - The Pirates' Jose Tabata connects on an eighth inning pinch-hit RBI single against the Mets on Monday, May 26, 2014, at Citi Field.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Pirates' Jose Tabata  connects on an eighth inning pinch-hit RBI single against the Mets on Monday, May 26, 2014, at Citi Field.
Getty Images - The Pirates' Neil Walker scores a ninth-inning run as the New York Mets' Juan Centeno can't handle the throw Monday, May 26, 2014, at Citi Field.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Pirates' Neil Walker scores a ninth-inning run as the New York Mets' Juan Centeno can't handle the throw Monday, May 26, 2014, at Citi Field.

Pirates/MLB Videos

Monday, May 26, 2014, 4:57 p.m.
 

NEW YORK — Clint Hurdle and the Pirates hitting coaches rethought their pinch-hitting program this spring after the club's bench bats struggled last season. The new program, and the new equipment, continued to pay off in a come-from-behind, 5-3 win over the New York Mets on Monday.

This season there are new pinch-hit routines and approaches, but the biggest change is the Pirates are now traveling with more equipment, having added a pitching machine to their road cargo.

When he is not in the starting lineup, first baseman Gaby Sanchez will typically begin taking swings at high-velocity offerings from the machine in the sixth and seventh innings, better preparing for hard-throwing, late-inning relievers. The Pirates did not travel with a machine previously under Hurdle.

Sanchez was ready to hit Monday. In the eighth inning, Sanchez pinch hit for platoon partner Ike Davis, who made his Mets homecoming. Sanchez homered off Mets left-hander Scott Rice to cut the deficit to 2-1.

Jose Valverde replaced Rice in the eighth, allowing a double to Starling Marte and a pinch-hit, RBI single by Jose Tabata, tying the score at 2-2.

In the ninth, Sanchez lined the go-ahead and game-winning RBI single to left off Valverde, scoring Neil Walker. An errant throw home allowed Andrew McCutchen, who had walked, to score, giving the Pirates a 4-2 lead.

“You know kind of when you are going to go up there to pinch hit. You go and stretch, and you go and hit,” Sanchez said. “I feel like we've been doing a good job of being ready, being prepared.”

After Pirates' pinch-hitters hit just .208 a year ago, the Pirates are now second in baseball with three pinch-hit home runs and lead the league with 14 pinch-hit RBIs. Pirates' pinch-hitters are batting .276.

The Mets released Valverde after the game.

“We've had a much better year pinch-hitting. It's an area that we weren't as good as we hoped to be so we did some different things,” Hurdle said. “We have velocity and spin at home that we really ramp up and get ultra-aggressive with before they come in. We have the same options on the road, now.

“The quality of the at-bats has gotten better.”

Not only did the Mets release Valverde after the loss, they also fired their hitting coach, Dave Hudgens, after the team struggled to square up Pirates rookie Brandon Cumpton.

For the first time in his young career, Cumpton was not making a spot start. He was given the first shot at replacing Wandy Rodriguez in the starting rotation.

Cumpton pitched well, allowing two runs — one earned — over six innings. He did not factor in the decision as Pirates stranded 13 runners and struggled to convert opportunities against Mets rookie starter Jacob deGrom.

Cumpton walked one, struck out one, and allowed seven hits. He induced nine groundouts against four flyouts, relying heavily upon a 92-93 mph fastball, which has gained 1 mph from last season.

“I'm going to look at it as a spot start,” Cumpton said. “I just tried to establish my fastball in.”

The Mets scored twice in the fifth off Cumpton. Daniel Murphy singled in deGrom, and Juan Lagares scored after a throw got away from Pedro Alvarez. Lagares was initially ruled out at home, but a review found that Russell Martin illegally blocked the plate.

In the ninth, Mark Melancon picked up the save, allowing his first regular-season homer since April 14, 2013, to Lucas Duda. It was the longest homerless streak in baseball. Hurdle had indicated Jason Grilli might not initially return to the ninth-inning role.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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