NEW YORK -- The Mets were tough to watch in the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s 7-4 loss to the Pirates at Citi Field. It was ugly because New York’s pitchers had a tough time throwing strikes.
Mets hurlers threw 214 pitches, walked a season-high 10 and hit two batters in the game. Three free passes and one hit batter came in the top of the seventh, when the Pirates scored six runs.
“I’m surprised [the Pirates] didn’t score more runs with that many people [on base],” Mets manager Buck Showalter said.
Right-hander José Butto, pitching in long relief, entered the game with two outs in the fourth, replacing left-hander David Peterson. Butto retired six of the first eight hitters he faced. Showalter noticed Butto’s improved slider and said the team still views him as a starter.
“[Butto] presented himself well tonight,” Showalter said.”That’s a positive [outcome from] the game tonight.”
But then came the seventh inning.
With the score tied at 1, Butto faced four hitters to start the inning and retired only one. He left the game with the bases loaded after walking two batters around Connor Joe’s double.
In came right-hander Grant Hartwig, who has been solid for the most part. But in this game, he couldn’t find the plate. Hartwig walked pinch-hitter Jack Suwinski to bring home Andrew McCutchen. He then hit Jared Triolo with a pitch, forcing Joe home.
“Timing was a little off,” Hartwig said. “Obviously, a big situation. I have to find it quick. I didn’t do my job. [I] tried to make an adjustment with the second batter [Triolo] and ended up losing the grip on the ball. I have to do better. I have to attack the hitters more in that situation. Ultimately, I have to be better.”
With Jason Delay at the plate, Liover Peguero came home on a passed ball by Francisco Alvarez. Delay then doubled to right field, scoring two more to make it a five-run game. Bryan Reynolds capped the outburst with a line drive that got under the glove of a diving Tim Locastro in center for an RBI triple.
"Yeah, it felt really good,” Delay said of his double. “Going into it, I was seeing a pitch, obviously. That pitcher was having trouble with command right there. The first one obviously got away, but after that, it was just get him up and find something up out over the plate that I could hit in the air, really just trying to get that run in, obviously. Situational hitting approach, and luckily, it found a gap."
Right-hander Drew Smith entered the game and stopped the bleeding by striking out McCutchen.
“Obviously, it’s a command issue,” Showalter said about Hartwig. “It’s something we hope he gets better at. It’s a challenge. We were down four guys in the ‘pen tonight. We had to push some things. It overshadowed what a great outing Butto had. That was really impressive. We had around  pitches [for him].”
It marked the second day in a row that a Mets starter couldn’t go at least five innings. On Monday, right-hander Carlos Carrasco pitched three innings in the Mets' 7-2 win. With the starters not giving the team length, the bullpen is taxed.
“It is a challenge to keep people out of harm's way,” Showalter said. “There are some guys that shouldn’t pitch tonight, and they didn’t. It’s tough because it puts a lot of pressure on the long reliever coming in. I’m sure we are going to do something to cover ourselves tomorrow. … It’s tough. It’s self-inflicted, though. Pitch better.”