Pittsburgh Pirates’ Starling Marte, left, Travis Snider, center, and Andrew McCutchen celebrate after a baseball game against the New York Mets at Citi Field, Sunday, May 12, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
by Howie Rumberg
NEW YORK (AP) — For a split second, Lucas Duda’s sharp grounder looked as if it was going to lift the Mets out of their doldrums.
An unfortunate bounce later, New York was headed toward another loss in a season in which they are rapidly mounting.
Duda’s grounder down the first-base line with runners on second and third hit the bag and caromed straight up in the air. That allowed the Pittsburgh Pirates to get the third out of the eighth inning of a 3-2 victory Sunday, sending the Mets to their third straight loss in the four-game series.
“It’s cliché to say it, but when times are tough, when it rains, it pours,” said Mike Baxter, who had a tying single in the seventh.
The Mets lost for the fourth time on a just-completed six-game homestand in which they went 7 for 40 (.175) with runners in scoring position, including 1 for 7 Sunday. They have lost 11 of 15 following a 10-9 start.
“You talk about how we’re snake bit, but that’s just part of the game,” Collins said. “What’s the next thing that’s going to keep us from having a big game? But we won two games on this homestand by getting a couple of big hits. We’ve just got to start hitting with guys in scoring position like we did early and we did last year in the first half.”
Pedro Alvarez broke a 2-all tie with an RBI single in the eighth after Matt Harvey left for a pinch-hitter in the seventh.
Mets relievers had pitched 13 innings over the previous three games, so manager Terry Collins was looking for another deep effort from Harvey in his 18th big league start following a nine-inning, one-hit gem on Tuesday.
Scott Rice (1-2) walked Pirates slugger Andrew McCutchen with one out in the eighth before Brandon Lyon walked pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez. Lyon struck out pinch-hitter Jose Tabata, then gave way to closer Bobby Parnell.
Alvarez, who played high school ball in New York City, singled to left-center for a 3-2 lead.
“We’ve been hit now with a two-headed monster: We’re not hittin’ and we’re not pitchin’, Collins said. “Certainly, we’ve got to get it going and there’s no secret formula how to do it.”
The Mets had an opportunity in the eighth against Mark Melancon, putting runners on first and third with one out. Ike Davis struck out as David Wright swiped second — New York’s fourth stolen base of the day — and Duda hit a sharp grounder that struck first base and shot straight up in the air. Second baseman Brandon Inge fielded the ball and tossed to Melancon for the final out of the inning, drawing gasps from many of the 28,404 in attendance.
“Inge stayed with the play, Melancon finished his route right to the bag, and we get the out,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Our guys didn’t quit once maybe a little adversity was thrown at them.”
Said Duda: “Anything could happen in that situation. You didn’t know which way it was going to ricochet or what’s going to happen. But it is what it is.”
Jason Grilli pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th straight save to start the season.
Jeanmar Gomez gave the Pirates another solid start in place of injured James McDonald, yielding one run in five innings. But Pittsburgh’s bullpen gave up the lead in the seventh on Baxter’s looping single off Justin Wilson (3-0) that tied it at 2.
Baxter, a pinch-hitting specialist with two game-winning hits this week — including one in Thursday’s the series opener — got a start Sunday. He drove in John Buck, who walked and advanced on a wild pitch, with the Mets’ first hit since a one-out single in the second. Baxter then stole second, and third when Juan Lagares struck out for the second out.
Collins tried to jolt his lineup by restoring slumping sluggers Davis and Duda back into the middle of the order, and the move paid quick dividends when Duda homered to center field. Hitless in his previous nine at-bats, Duda ran around the bases in his pink spikes on Mother’s Day as New York went up 1-0.
Davis went 0 for 4, his average falling to .180.
The no-nonsense Harvey appeared out of sorts from the start — maybe it was Buck using pink stick-ons on his fingernails rather than the usual white to make pitch signs more easily readable.
Relying more heavily on his slider and curveball than a fastball that reaches 98 mph, Harvey gave up two runs in the third, and it could’ve been worse if Lagares hadn’t made a sensational catch in center field.
After Clint Barmes led off with his second homer of the season, Gomez hit a sinking liner and Lagares reached low to get his glove on the ball, which popped out as he stumbled forward. Lagares’ momentum carried him into a dive and he made the catch — for good — as he fell to the turf.
Harvey then loaded the bases on two walks around a single. Garrett Jones hit a sacrifice fly for a 2-1 lead, and Jordy Mercer had an inning-ending popout.
Still, the 24-year-old right-hander gave up little to the Pirates on a day when he struck out a season-low four. Harvey allowed two runs and five hits. He also walked two and plunked his first batter of the year.
“It was tough. It was definitely a battle. You’re going to have those days. You’re not going to have your pinpoint location every time,” he said. “I needed to put up zeros today, and I wasn’t able to do that, but I was happy that I went seven innings and gave us a chance to win.”
NOTES: The Mets recalled RHP Greg Burke from Triple-A Las Vegas and placed RHP Jeurys Familia on the 15-day DL, retroactive to May 9, because of right biceps tendinitis.