Pirates show fight in win over Mets

July 17th, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates returned to PNC Park from the All-Star break refreshed, re-energized and ready to play hard.

What lay in store for Pittsburgh to begin the second half? Bad weather, heated emotions and a wild win. The Pirates endured a rain delay and a short, but intense, ruckus en route to a 4-1 victory over the Mets in the series opener on Friday night.

Around a 39-minute delay, the Pirates got a strong start from Chad Kuhl, in an uncharacteristic way. In each start this season with four or more walks issued, Kuhl has surrendered four or more runs. However, he issued five walks to the Mets and was able to hold them to just an unearned run -- and one that happened in historic fashion.

After Pete Alonso walked to begin the fourth inning, Jeff McNeil grounded a ball up the middle. Kevin Newman, playing slightly right of second base in the shift, was unable to control the hop right in front of him, and it trickled into the outfield grass for an error. That snapped Newman’s streak of errorless games at shortstop to begin a season at 76, which marks a new National League record.

However, Newman was critical in helping Kuhl escape the jam with a barehanded fire to first and an inning-ending 6-3 putout.

“That's fairly amazing with the number of plays he had, and it ended up getting broken by a really challenging play,” manager Derek Shelton said. “I think it shows how hard he's worked on his defense, and he didn't let one play dictate how he was gonna play."

On the other side of the mound, Marcus Stroman afforded the Pirates two runs on a single from Adam Frazier, but he provided a solid start. It was capped by a hard lineout from John Nogowski, which sent Stroman skipping off the mound fired up. The Bucs’ first baseman took exception and barked back, the two confronted each other and the benches quickly cleared.

“You have two competitive guys out there [with the] stands full, it gets a little heated sometimes,” Nogowski said of the incident. “But, shoot, that’s why we love it.”

The excitement died down quickly with no ejections given, but the Pirates gave themselves more reason to be energized out of the ruckus.

In the Pirates’ first at-bat after the confrontation, Wilmer Difo slugged a deep home run to right field that bounced off the gating at the back of the right-field stands and over. An inning later, Bryan Reynolds -- fresh off starting in his first All-Star Game -- cranked a Statcast-projected 431-foot homer for insurance, setting a new career mark at 17.

“Especially with the benches clearing out like that and the adrenaline's going up and everyone's feeling the adrenaline, it just ignited a level of competition that was much needed, not only in the game but especially in our dugout,” Difo said of the homers through interpreter Mike Gonzalez.

The Pirates have two more games against the Mets in this series to finish out a stretch of seven straight games facing one another. The way the team responded both with its play and during the extracurriculars on a wild night in Pittsburgh, Shelton is encouraged and senses good chemistry.

“I think the thing we talk about a lot is effort, and I think competing goes right with that,” Shelton said. “Our guys compete every night, and I think it just speaks to the culture we're trying to create here. These guys [have] got each other's back, regardless if a guy has been here two days or maybe five years, and I think you really saw that in a group today."