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Conforto hits 3-run homer, but Mets fall in 9th

Despite loss, Callaway says young pitchers will be used in high-leverage situations
MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- The Mets have expressed the desire to place young pitchers in high-leverage situations over the remainder of the season in an effort to allow more room for growth. They put that into practice against the Pirates on Friday when they handed rookie right-hander Tim Peterson the ball with the score tied in the ninth inning.

Peterson surrendered back-to-back hits to Josh Harrison and Gregory Polanco and intentionally walked Elias Diaz to load the bases with no outs for David Freese. He then hung a first-pitch slider that Freese drove to deep center field, driving in the winning run and dealing the Mets a 5-4 loss in walk-off fashion at PNC Park.

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PITTSBURGH -- The Mets have expressed the desire to place young pitchers in high-leverage situations over the remainder of the season in an effort to allow more room for growth. They put that into practice against the Pirates on Friday when they handed rookie right-hander Tim Peterson the ball with the score tied in the ninth inning.

Peterson surrendered back-to-back hits to Josh Harrison and Gregory Polanco and intentionally walked Elias Diaz to load the bases with no outs for David Freese. He then hung a first-pitch slider that Freese drove to deep center field, driving in the winning run and dealing the Mets a 5-4 loss in walk-off fashion at PNC Park.

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Mets manager Mickey Callaway stated that despite the outcome of Friday night's game, it was the type of situation where the Mets' young arms "deserve the right to go out there and show us what they can do."

Video: NYM@PIT: Freese laces a walk-off single to win it

"These young guys are going to feel pressure they haven't felt before," Callaway said. "So this is why we want to get them in the game, so they start getting used to that. Hopefully after a little bit of time getting in there, in those tough situations, they start to normalize and you can really see who they are."

The night began with a veteran on the mound, as southpaw Jason Vargas returned from the disabled list to make his first Major League start since June 19. Working with a 3-0 lead following Michael Conforto's three-run home run in the first inning, Vargas allowed three earned runs over 4 1/3 innings.

"It's kind of hard to say what you anticipate, but I felt really solid out there," Vargas said. "I felt like I was able to make some pitches. I made that one kind of mistake to Freese that he really went out there and hammered, but other than that I felt like I did a good job."

The Mets trailed 4-3 when Jose Reyes came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning. He lined a ball straight to left fielder Jordan Luplow for the second out; Luplow then attempted to throw home to prevent Conforto from tagging up from third. His throw sailed to the backstop, however, and allowed Conforto to trot home and plate the tying run.

Video: NYM@PIT: Conforto evades tag at home with great slide

With the score even in the sixth inning, the Mets turned to rookie right-hander Tyler Bashlor to make his first appearance since July 15. After striking out Sean Rodriguez on four pitches, Bashlor bookended a Colin Moran single with a pair of walks to Jordy Mercer and Luplow to load the bases.

Bashlor induced an inning-ending double play to escape the jam unscathed and completed two scoreless innings of relief before being lifted after the seventh.

"Bashlor came out throwing," Callaway said. "It was very loud when he was throwing. It was good to see him come out and do the job that he did given the time he had off."

Video: NYM@PIT: McNeil turns 2 to escape bases-loaded jam

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
With the score tied at 4 in the eighth inning, Conforto drove a ball from right-hander Kyle Crick to right field for a leadoff single. Three batters later, Kevin Plawecki reached base on a hit-by-pitch to put the go-ahead run in scoring position for Reyes.

Reyes swung on a first-pitch fastball from Crick and hit a soft ground ball down the first-base line to end the threat and keep the game tied.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
In the third inning, Vargas delivered a pitch that Luplow skied to right-center field. Center fielder Brandon Nimmo subsequently sprinted to his left, covering 77 feet in 4.5 seconds and laying out to make the catch for the second out of the inning. According to Statcast™, Nimmo's play rated a four-star catch as he chased after the ball with near-elite 29.6 feet per second sprint speed.

Video: NYM@PIT: Nimmo lays out for a gorgeous diving grab

UP NEXT
The Mets will send Jacob deGrom to the mound to start against the Pirates at PNC Park on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. ET. He's strung together 12 consecutive quality starts and enters with a 1.71 ERA, the lowest mark among qualified Major League starters this season. Right-hander Trevor Williams will start for the Pirates.

Mason Wittner is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh.

New York Mets, Michael Conforto, Tim Peterson