Mets pull away from Pirates in 6th for victory at Citi Field
NEW YORK — Before Tuesday's game at Citi Field, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he was considering using hard-throwing lefty reliever Justin Wilson in more tie-score situations, even games in which the Pirates trailed by a run or two, now that Jason Grilli had returned to lengthen the back of the bullpen.
Hurdle said he did not regret not putting the idea into practice sooner in a 4-2 loss to the New York Mets.
Instead of turning to Wilson in a tie game in the sixth, Hurdle began the inning with long-man Jeanmar Gomez. Hurdle eventually went to Wilson in the inning, but by the time he did, the damage was done. Gomez allowed two runs and recorded just one out.
“We were down at the bottom of the order. (The thinking) was Gomez to start that inning, save Wilson for the left-handers in the middle if we needed him,” Hurdle said. “We used Gomez the other night in the seventh inning in a tie ballgame. I don't have any reservations about using him at any point in time.
“(Gomez) has been on a good roll. … It wasn't one of his signature outings.”
Hurdle was forced to summon the bullpen earlier than he would have liked as he received a subpar performance from Edinson Volquez.
Volquez entered having cut his walk rate in half, averaging 2.4 walks per nine innings compared to 4.6 for his career.
Perhaps the improved command came at the cost of velocity and missing bats as Volquez entered with his fastball velocity and strikeout down from career norms. For at least for one night, Volquez returned to being the pitcher who baffled the Reds, Padres and Dodgers from 2009-13.
Volquez entered Tuesday having rarely touched the mid-90s. His fastest pitch entering play was 95 mph. On Tuesday he routinely hit 95 mph and touched 98 mph, the first time he reached such a velocity since 2009, according to Fangraphs.com. He struck out six in five innings.
“(Francisco Liriano) told me about it when I got back to the dugout,” Volquez said. “He started laughing. He said, ‘That's the first time in a long time you throw 98.' I just let it go a little bit tonight. … I was throwing 96-97, (but) lack of control, I don't like that. You get loose, and you want to over throw a little bit.”
The Citi Field PITCHf/x speed ratings did not appear to be hot as Mets starter Jonathan Niese's fastball was 87-89 mph, in line with his average on the season.
Volquez's problem was a return of spotty command. He walked five batters and often missed in the zone. Daniel Murphy doubled and scored on a Bobby Abreu single in the third. In the fourth, Reuben Tejada doubled and scored on a Juan Lagares double to stake the Mets to a 2-0 lead.
The Pirates entered with a 3-1 record against left-handed starting pitchers. But Niese kept the Pirates off-balance, beginning the game with five straight shutout innings. In the sixth, Niese walked the bases loaded. With two outs, Starling Marte atoned for a first inning-fielding gaffe when he did not give way to Andrew McCutchen, resulting in a two-base error. Marte lashed a two-run single to tie the score at 2-2.
But a day after the Pirates' pinch-hitters won the day, they faltered Tuesday.
Former Pirates pitcher Vic Black, acquired in the Marlon Byrd trade last season, relieved Niese. Black walked Neil Walker to load the bases in the sixth. Former Met Ike Davis pinch hit, but he struck out to end the threat.
In the eighth, with two on and two out and the Pirates down by two, Pedro Alvarez pinch hit against righty Jenrry Mejia. Alvarez grounded into a double play, ending the Pirates' last threat.