Mercer's walk-off single in 11th delivers win for Bucs
Alvarez goes deep in first at-bat since being named to NL Derby team
PITTSBURGH -- Discussing before Friday night's game the belated invitation received by his third baseman to participate in Monday's 2013 Chevrolet Home Run Derby, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle urged Pedro Alvarez to just "enjoy the experience."
If his first game as one of the National League's confirmed Derby representatives was to be considered part of that experience, Alvarez enjoyed the heck out of it.
He was only a bystander to the most enjoyable part: Jordy Mercer's RBI single with two outs in the 11th gave the Pirates a 3-2 victory over the Mets, bringing down the house while at the same time raising the Jolly Roger.
Three hours after Alvarez had begun the game with a two-run home run everyone but he considered the acme of baseball drama, Mercer got another opportunity to perform what he considers a specialty -- getting key hits. He may not get the most of them, but he makes them count, as he did this one off Gonzalez Germen, the right-hander in his big league debut as the Mets' sixth pitcher of the night.
"You always want to be that guy to get that game-winning hit," Mercer said shortly after escaping from the mob of congratulatory teammates on the field -- but not the shaving-cream pie that had his name on it. "I'm just happy. We've had some long games this year, and we were all ready to go home."
Since playing their first extra-innings game of the season on May 14, the Pirates have averaged another approximately every five games. Friday's victory improved their record in extra innings to 7-5.
"We encouraged everyone to go up there, put spikes in the ground and battle," Hurdle said of the tense battle in which the Pirates had few opportunities -- with a mere total of five hits until Mercer's game-winner. "Jordy's had a lot of success in his career driving in runners with two outs. I like the way he stood in there, got after something he liked and kept it in the middle."
Germen had issued a pair of walks -- to Andrew McCutchen, then, after his steal of second forced the Mets' hand, intentionally to Russell Martin -- while also striking out two before getting to Mercer, who rolled his game-winner up the middle into center field.
"The one thing you've got to make them do is swing the bat," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "The base on balls hurt. Walking Cutch there, you know he's going to steal and be standing at second base. But I tell you what, he made some big impressive pitches."
"With Cutch on second, you know any hit that finds any kind of green will score him, and that helps your confidence going to bat, for sure," Mercer said. "I knew they were shifted a little to the left side, so as soon as I saw the ball get past the pitcher, I knew it had a good chance to get through."
This resolution only concluded an intriguing evening on which a team game was practically reduced to a battle, of wills and otherwise, between two individuals.
And, no, they were not right-handers Charlie Morton and Jeremy Hefner, although the two starters did pitch to a classy seven-inning standoff.
One of the principals, however, was David Wright, the Mets' third baseman who, in moonlighting as captain of the NL squad for the Home Run Derby, had originally bypassed Alvarez. Hence, he was lustily booed by the partisan portion of a PNC Park sellout crowd of 39,036.
In the other corner, hot and otherwise, of course was Alvarez, who got the debate off to a preposterously fitting start in the first inning.
Alvarez drove the first pitch he saw from Wright's team -- delivered by Hefner -- into the Mets' bullpen for a 2-0 first-inning lead.
Asked whether that home run felt particularly good, given the rhetoric of the past couple of days, Alvarez said, "No."
Wright had his own response, both to Alvarez's blow and the fans' incessant booing of his every move, in the sixth, when his single drove in the Mets' first run. On the power scale, his opposite-field flair didn't compare, but it was good enough to deliver Eric Young, who had doubled down the left-field line.
The booing of Wright would continue all evening and, given the length of the game, there was a lot of it. Alvarez was asked whether that reception was unfair and said, "Can we not do Home Run Derby questions and stick to the game, please?"
Kirk Nieuwenhuis' homer with one out in the seventh knotted the score at 2. That home run was the first allowed by Morton at home since May 6, 2012, covering eight starts and 32 innings.
"Sinker, in a bad spot," Morton said. "I wanted to throw it down and away, and it went up and in and ran back into the middle of the plate. In that spot, it was disappointing. But he put a great swing on it."
Morton departed after that inning with a high-quality no-decision. In going beyond the sixth for the first time since resuming his career after Tommy John surgery, Morton allowed six hits and two earned runs in seven innings, with one walk, four strikeouts and 10 other outs on ground balls.
"A very efficient outing by Charlie," Hurdle said. "A lot of balls on the ground. It's good to see him continue to get a little bit better every time he has the ball. I liked Morton's outing, then the way were able to finish up after that. Everyone who took the mound for us showed real good stuff."
The usual suspects: Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli, Tony Watson, Bryan Morris and Vin Mazzaro (working the 11th for his fifth win) combined to throw three-hit ball the last four innings.