NEW YORK -- Even if their poor start to the season still clouds the picture, the Pirates have quietly played solid baseball for the better part of a month. Their 11-1 thumping of the Mets on Sunday ensured the Bucs a three-game series victory at Citi Field, improving them to 12-9 since May 13.
No National League Central team has been better over that stretch.
"I think every team's just waiting for somebody to win 10 in a row," said Pirates third baseman David Freese, who drove in three runs on three hits. "You look at the standings, and we're all kind of sitting around waiting. There's an opportunity for every team in the division to get on a little roll and separate."
The Pirates continued the trend Sunday behind starting pitcher Trevor Williams, who delivered seven innings of one-run ball in his bid to remain a part of Pittsburgh's rotation. Allowing the only run against him to score on a double-play ball, Williams scattered seven hits and two walks, inducing three double plays against a Mets club that hit into four of them on the afternoon.
Mets starter Tyler Pill was not so fortunate on a drizzly afternoon, allowing five runs -- three earned -- over five innings, before Andrew McCutchen put things well out of reach with a three-run homer off Josh Smoker in the ninth. Sunday marked the eighth anniversary of McCutchen's Major League debut, also against the Mets, and continued his resurgence since he was moved down to the sixth spot in the lineup. McCutchen is hitting .387 with three homers in his past nine games.
"Love seeing Andrew's swing. Staying on a ball, driving it, back-spinning it to left-center field late," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's another big contribution, regardless of the score. Nothing breeds confidence like some success."
In dropping four of their past five, the Mets have allowed an average of more than six runs per game.
"We just need to do a better job," Mets second baseman Neil Walker said. "We just need to do a better job when we get a chance to win a series or sweep a series or salvage a series. It's not like we're showing up here just trying to get through the day. We're showing up here trying to win."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Beware of side effects: As he did in his starting debut last week, Pill gave up a steady stream of hits. But this time, multiple defensive lapses behind him ensured that he would not escape unscathed. In the third inning, after John Jaso doubled home Adam Frazier for the Pirates' third run, Michael Conforto committed his second throwing error of the game to move Jaso to third. The next batter, Freese, sent Jaso home on a sacrifice fly.
"I think of myself as an accurate thrower and I take pride in that, so it is a little bit disappointing," Conforto said. "But it's a lesson learned. I'll have that in the back of my head the next time I try to throw somebody out."
Seventh-inning psych-out: In a bizarre replay review, umpires overturned a force play at second base several minutes after both teams left the field, creating a confusing scene that led to a Pittsburgh run. With a man on first base and one out in the seventh, Jaso hit a grounder to third base, resulting in what appeared to be a routine, inning-ending, 5-4-3 double play. But Hurdle challenged and won. The game's replay official determined that Walker's foot was not on the bag as he made the turn.
Once the seventh-inning stretch festivities concluded, the Mets jogged back out to the field. Freese followed with a single, plating a run to make it a 6-1 game as boos rained down from the stands.
"Obviously we're missing some guys, but the guys on this roster can do some damage and put together some W's. This whole division, it's just trying to find a way to string some wins together." -- Freese
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Umpires needed only 51 seconds to determine that pinch-hitter Phil Gosselin was safe at first base on a fielder's choice in the eighth inning. Mets manager Terry Collins initiated the review, half an inning after Hurdle's challenge went against him.
FROM THE TRAINER'S ROOM
Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison departed due to right calf discomfort on the overturned play at second base in the seventh. He received treatment at Citi Field and is day to day.
Pirates: After an off-day Monday, the Pirates will begin a two-game series against the Orioles at 7:05 p.m. ET in Baltimore. Right-hander Ivan Nova, who has pitched at least six innings in each of his 11 starts this season, will take the mound for Pittsburgh. Right fielder Gregory Polanco should be back in the lineup after a day off Sunday.
Mets: Following an off-day Monday, the Mets will open a two-game series in Texas on Tuesday. Jacob deGrom will start the 8:05 p.m. ET opener opposite right-hander Nick Martinez. The Mets' road trip will wind for six total games through Texas and Atlanta.
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