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Pirates can't capitalize on chances, fall to Mets

Club goes 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, leaves 11 on base

NEW YORK -- Vic Black used to be one of them.

He only got into three Major League games for the Pirates, sure, but as a former first-round Draft pick from the Lone Star State with a high-90s fastball, Black seemed destined to be next in a long line of hurlers to leave his mark on baseball with some good ol' Texas heat. Most expected he'd do his damage as a closer.

He never quite mastered his command issues, though, and last August the Pirates traded him to the Mets.

On Tuesday at Citi Field, Black faced his old team for the first time and was, well, about what anyone in Pittsburgh might remember of him. Black walked two and struck out two while picking up the win with 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief as the Pirates lost to the Mets, 4-2. The loss, just the Pirates' second in seven contests, sets up a rubber game between the teams Wednesday afternoon.

"It's the Vic Black that we had seen," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He could get on some rolls when the command is there, that's when he can dominate. You saw some sequences tonight -- the fastball played, it's a good, hard, sharp breaking ball. We liked Vic a lot."

The 6-foot-4 right-hander was making his 2014 big league debut after being called up for the second time in a three-day span. He made this trip count.

Black's fastball touched 99 mph, but the pitch that helped him strand five runners -- two of Jon Niese's, plus three of his own -- was the curveball. Ike Davis went down swinging to end the sixth, and Gaby Sanchez was caught looking to end the seventh.

"It was huge for him," Mets manager Terry Collins said of the curveball to Davis. "It sent a message to them, too, that, 'I'm going to throw this.' And now, when you put something different in those hitters' heads, they're not as frisky in that batter's box as they might be. So it was a big pitch, the strikeout pitch was a big pitch."

The Pirates' inability to come up with a big hit with runners on burned them all night. They finished 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, leaving 11 men on base. Sanchez, the hero in Monday's 5-3 win, stranded six runners and ended the seventh and ninth innings.

"We kept pushing guys out there on all of their pitchers, kept running up pitch counts. We had multiple at-bats with eight pitches or more, we lined out multiple times," Hurdle said. "Some nights that's just the way it is."

Starling Marte's two-out, two-run single in the sixth was the only base knock with multiple runners on, and it knotted the score at 2 to knock Niese out of the game. Niese walked the bases loaded to set up Marte's hit.

"They put together some good at-bats, but I walked three guys. I can't walk guys," Niese said. "It's not like I was trying to throw a ball. But they put together good at-bats. They made me throw a lot of pitches, and I made a mistake."

The Mets promptly scored two more runs off Jeanmar Gomez in the bottom half of the inning to take the lead for good.

The early Pittsburgh culprit was Edinson Volquez, who allowed two runs on four hits in five innings.

Volquez fell behind in counts early, then the Pirates fell behind on the scoreboard. Bobby Abreu's third-inning single and Juan Lagares' fourth-inning double each plated a run.

Volquez, who threw 61 of his 106 pitches for strikes, struggled with command throughout his five innings. Fourteen of the 25 batters he faced saw first-pitch strikes. He also walked a season-high five, and although none of the beneficiaries of those free passes came around to score, it did drive up Volquez's pitch count.

The final one -- Volquez's penultimate batter of the night -- put Lucas Duda on after an 11-pitch at-bat. Duda fell behind 0-2 and fouled off four pitches before working the walk.

The five walks equaled one-third of his 2014 total entering the game. Still, his 2.97 walks per nine innings on the season is well below his career average of 4.6.

"Walks killed me tonight," Volquez said. "I'm supposed to be there in the seventh."

Tim Healey is an associate reporter for
Read More: Pittsburgh Pirates, Starling Marte, Jeanmar Gomez, Edinson Volquez