The Pittsburgh Pirates ' offense finally got in gear to back up another brilliant starting pitching performance.
Getting anything going against Jeremy Hefner could prove to be far more difficult.
The Pirates will try to win back-to-back games for the first time in nearly two weeks Friday night against a resurgent New York Mets team going for its first five-game road winning streak in nearly two years.
Limited to six runs while losing four straight - and the NL Central lead to St. Louis - Pittsburgh (54-36) pounded out 12 hits in Wednesday's 5-0 victory over AL West-leading Oakland.
The Pirates' 5-for-9 effort with runners in scoring position was a welcome change - the team is batting just .232 in those situations - but Francisco Liriano continued what's been a dominant run of Pittsburgh starts with seven strong innings. The Pirates, owners of the majors' best ERA at 3.09, have had just one starter in the last 25 games give up more than three runs.
That happened the last time Charlie Morton (1-2, 3.38 ERA) took the ball.
Making his fifth start since coming off the DL following right elbow surgery, the right-hander made it through six innings for the first time but surrendered a pair of two-run homers in Saturday's 4-1 road loss to the Cubs."What I need to do and what I do well usually is keep the ball in the park and I didn't do that," said Morton, who hadn't allowed a homer in his first four starts.
Morton, 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA in two home starts against New York, will face a Mets team that's eyeing a season high-tying fifth consecutive victory after finishing off a three-game sweep with Wednesday's 7-2 win at San Francisco.
The Mets (40-48) are averaging 6.8 runs while winning five of six on their trip. Their last five-game road winning streak was July 25-29, 2011.
Hefner (4-6, 3.39) could help New York equal that run considering the way he's been dealing. After going 0-5 with a 4.50 ERA in his first seven starts, Hefner has a major league-best 1.64 ERA since June 4.
He's yielded one earned run in six of seven starts during that stretch.
"We made a mechanical adjustment a couple months ago, toward the end of May," Hefner told the Mets' official website after striking out a career high-tying eight and throwing seven innings of one-run ball in Sunday's 2-1 win over Milwaukee. "I have a little more deceptiveness, and the velocity's gone up a little bit. Playing great defense and we're scoring runs."
Hefner didn't need much support in his only previous outing against Pittsburgh, going seven innings in a 6-0 home win Sept. 26.
The Mets were outscored 21-7 by the visiting Pirates while losing the last three of a four-game series in May.
Third baseman Pedro Alvarez , 6 for 11 with a homer and four RBIs in those contests, is batting .343 with three home runs and seven RBIs as Pittsburgh has dropped six of nine since ending June on a nine-game winning streak. Alvarez, among the NL home run leaders with 23, was initially left off the Home Run Derby roster by Wright, the league's captain, but was selected Thursday to replace Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez .
Fellow All-Star Andrew McCutchen , who's batting .406 this month, drove in half of the Pirates' eight runs as they dropped two of three in the Mets' last visit May 21-23, 2012.
|New York Mets|
|July 09, 2013||Shaun Marcum||15-Day DL||Thoracic outlet syndrome|
|July 08, 2013||Shaun Marcum||Day-to-Day||Right hand numbness|
|June 22, 2013||Lucas Duda||15-Day DL||Strained left intercostal|
|June 21, 2013||Jonathon Niese||15-Day DL||Partially torn left rotator cuff|
|June 20, 2013||Jonathon Niese||Day-to-Day||Left game - left shoulder discomfort|
|June 19, 2013||Scott Atchison||15-Day DL||Right groin strain|
|July 07, 2013||Neil Walker||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|June 09, 2013||A.J. Burnett||15-Day DL||Strained right calf|
|June 09, 2013||A.J. Burnett||15-Day DL||Strained right calf|
|June 06, 2013||Jared Hughes||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|June 06, 2013||Wandy Rodriguez||15-Day DL||Left forearm tightness|
|June 03, 2013||Phil Irwin||60-Day DL||Right arm fatigue|
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Jordy Mercer knows the routine. He figured it was time he experienced it for himself.
The Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman singled up the middle off Gonzalez Germen with two outs in the 11th inning to send teammate Andrew McCutchen sprinting home with the winning run in a 3-2 victory over the New York Mets on Friday night.
Mercer celebrated the first walkoff hit of his career and the sixth of Pittsburgh's stunning season by flipping his bat in the air and then running for safety.
"You make them chase you down because you know you're going to get punished afterward, punched and stuff," Mercer said. "It's all worth it in the end, though."
McCutchen led off the 11th with a walk, stole second and then easily beat the throw home from center fielder Juan Lagares to end the Mets' four-game winning streak.
The Pirates stayed one game behind St. Louis in the tight NL Central race.
Vin Mazzaro (5-2) retired all three batters he faced to earn the victory. Starling Marte had two of Pittsburgh's six hits, and Pedro Alvarez added his 24th home run.
Mets All-Star David Wright had two hits and extended his hitting streak to 12 games. He had an RBI single but also flied out with two runners on to end the New York 10th. Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit his third homer of the season for New York.
Germen (0-1) got only two outs in his first inning in the majors and took the loss. He struck out Alvarez and Gaby Sanchez with McCutchen on second before Mercer's grounder slipped by shortstop Omar Quintanilla and into the outfield.
"He made some great pitches, too," Mets manager Terry Collins said of Germen. "The 3-1 pitch to Gaby Sanchez was about as (gutsy) of a pitch that you'll ever see."
The game carried a little more heat than usual between one team in the midst of a pennant race and another rebuilding.
Wright, the starting NL All-Star third baseman and Home Run Derby captain, added Alvarez to the NL's derby roster on Thursday after Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez pulled out because of a hand injury.
Still, Wright's perceived initial snub of Alvarez wasn't forgotten by Pirates fans. He was booed lustily before each at bat, even though he and Alvarez - who will make his All-Star debut - exchanged a handshake and a brief chat before the national anthem.
"They're knowledgeable fans, they know what's going on and it's cool that they're upset and passionate about it," Wright said. "It made for a nice atmosphere."
Alvarez wasted little time celebrating. One batter after Jose Tabata reached on an infield single in the bottom of the first, Alvarez hit the first pitch he saw from Jeremy Hefner into the New York bullpen in center field. He trotted past Wright without looking up as the seventh sellout crowd of the season roared.
Alvarez, a New York native, dismissed any sense of payback with his blast. He considers Wright a friend and would rather focus on his breakout season.
"I just try to hit the pitch where it's pitched, and just trying to make good contact and really not worry about trying to put too much on the ball," he said. "You can't really control the home runs. I try my best to make good contact wherever the ball is."
Hefner settled down and retired 14 straight after Alvarez's homer, needing just 78 pitches to get through seven innings. He allowed three hits and struck out three without issuing a walk.
"Last year and even at the beginning of this year I would have folded or given up more runs or whatever the case may be," Hefner said. "I've been able to bounce back, turn the page and give quality outings after giving up some runs early."
It marked the eighth straight start in which Hefner gave up two earned runs or fewer, the longest streak by a Mets pitcher since Johan Santana did it over 13 starts between 2008 and 2009.
Pittsburgh's Charlie Morton gave up two runs, six hits, and a walk with four strikeouts in his longest start since returning from elbow surgery last month. Morton rolled through five innings before Wright delivered an RBI single in the sixth.
Morton's only real mistake came on a 2-0 fastball that Nieuwenhuis hit into the first row of seats in right-center to tie it at 2.
NOTES: New York right-hander Carlos Torres (0-1, 0.51 ERA) makes his first major league start in nearly three years on Saturday when he fills in for ace Matt Harvey , who is dealing with a blister on his right index finger and an innings limit. Collins says Torres could earn a regular spot in the rotation. The 30-year-old Torres has allowed just one run in 10 relief appearances since being called up from Triple-A in mid-June. A.J. Burnett (4-6, 3.05 ERA) starts for the Pirates. ... Pittsburgh won't send rookie RHP Gerrit Cole to Triple-A Indianapolis during the All-Star break. Cole is 4-2 with a 3.68 ERA since making his debut on June 11. The right-hander started on Tuesday, and the Pirates will let him have a few days off during the break rather than have him make a spot start in Indianapolis to stay on his routine. ... The Pirates acquired minor league infielder Russ Canzler from Baltimore for RHP Tim Alderson . To make room on the 40-man roster, the Pirates moved RHP James McDonald (shoulder) to the 60-day disabled list.