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Mets tag Pirates with 11-inning defeat

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

NEW YORK -- If there had been as much life in the Pirates' bats Tuesday as there was in John Van Benschoten's knees and Freddy Sanchez's arm, things might have turned out differently.

But the Pirates stranded 11 runners, while the New York Mets capitalized on an error and a balk to steal a 5-4 victory in 11 innings.

Van Benschoten (0-1) took the loss in his first appearance after being called up from Triple-A Indianapolis.

Endy Chavez began the 11th with a single to center on an 0-2 pitch and went to second on a balk.

"I asked the second base umpire and he said I flinched my knees," Van Benschoten said. "I thought I stepped off, I don't know. It was a tough call."

From his vantage point in the dugout, Pirates manager John Russell could see the ump made the right call.

"(Van Benschoten) started to move, stopped, then tried to step off," Russell said. "If it's one continuous motion, then he can step off. But he stopped."

Marlon Anderson sacrificed Chavez to third. Jose Reyes and Luis Castillo walked, loading the bases.

David Wright hit a fly ball to deep right field. The ball landed fair by about a foot, and Chavez scored on the single.

Jorge Sosa (3-1) tossed one scoreless inning for the win.

Mets left-hander ace Johan Santana (4-2) went 5 23 innings and gave up two hits -- solo homers by Nate McLouth and Jason Bay.

With the score tied, 2-2, in the fifth, Chavez singled and scored on Reyes' triple to right-center. Luis Castillo walked.

With one out and runners on the corners, the Pirates played their infield back at double-play depth.

The gambit appeared a wise move, as Wright hit an easy roller to shortstop Chris Gomez, who made a smooth underhand flip to Freddy Sanchez.

But Sanchez never controlled the ball, and it rolled up his arm and dropped onto the grass. Everyone was safe, and the Mets got another run.

"I tried to be too quick," Sanchez said. "It was one of those mistakes that happens at the wrong time. I've got to be able to make that play."

The Pirates pulled within a run in the eighth, thanks more to Duaner Sanchez's generosity than anything they did at the plate.

Gomez singled, and Sanchez doubled. After Bay struck out, Xavier Nady walked, loading the bases.

Adam LaRoche, who's is hitting .171, walked on five pitches to force in a run.

But Jose Bautista hit a bouncer to third, and Sanchez was forced out at the plate. Ronny Paulino, ignoring the fact that Sanchez was having control problems, jumped on the first pitch and popped out.

"We had lots of opportunities to score, but we just can't get that big hit," Russell said. "Somebody wants to step up and get that big hit, but then he starts pressing, trying to do too much. We've got to stay with our approach, not get too big and be overaggressive."

Mets closer Billy Wagner gave up an unearned run in the ninth. It was his first blown save in seven chances this season.

Ryan Doumit reached on a throwing error by Reyes and went to second on a wild pitch. Doumit scored on Sanchez's two-out single to center and sent the game into extra innings.

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