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J.A. Happ and Pirates bullpen win pitcher's duel with Mets, 3-2 in 10

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

A single by Gregory Polanco and a sacrifice fly by Aramis Ramirez drove in two runs in the top of the tenth and Mark Melancon earned his league-leading 36th save as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the New York Mets 3-2 in the series opener.

With the score tied 1-1, Chris Stewart led off the 10th against losing pitcher Bobby Parnell with a single. With pinch-runner Starling Marte running on the pitch, pinch-hitter Francisco Cervelli singled, moving Marte to third. Polanco then drove the first pitch he saw from Parnell into center field to break the tie. After Walker moved the runners to second and third on a grounder to first, the Mets walked Andrew McCutchen intentionally, his third walk of the evening, before Ramirez's fly to right drove home Cervelli with the Pirates' third run. That run enabled the Pirates to survive a lead-off double by Juan Lagares, wild pitch by Melancon, and run-scoring sacrifice fly by Curtis Granderson in the bottom of the 10th. After that, Melancon struck out Yoenis Cespedes and retired Juan Uribe to complete the save.

The scoring until the 10th comprised two solo home runs--Neil Walker vs. Mets starter Bartolo Colon in the top of the first, and Cespedes vs. Pirates starter J.A. Happ in the bottom of the sixth. Happ fared much better in his second start for the Pirates than he did in his first. After spending nine days between starts in the Searage/Benedict Home for Wayward Pitchers, he delivered his fastball with authority, clocking 94-95 mph on the radar gun. In the bottom of the third, he gave up a lead-off single to Lagares and a double to Granderson, putting runners on second and third with no outs. But he came back strong, striking out Cespedes, retiring Uribe on a pop-up, and striking out Daniel Murphy. Those final three outs in the third began a string of nine straight outs for Happ before the Cespedes homer in the sixth. Two batters later, after a one-out double by Murphy, Clint Hurdle employed the quick hook and brought in Jared Hughes to replace Happ. Although he gave up seven hits to the Mets, Happ walked only one and struck out seven in his five and a third innings, a perfectly credible fifth-starter performance.

Other than the Walker homer, the Pirates hitters were able to do little with the wily, crafty, and always entertaining Colon, mounting only one serious threat. Colon walked McCutchen in the fourth, the first walk he had issued in 34 innings, and Jung Ho Kang moved McCutchen to third with a one-out single. But Colon then retired Pedro Alvarez on a well-executed 1-6-3 double play to end the threat.

The Pirates bullpen brought the game to the 10th inning cleanly and efficiently. Hughes retired the two batters he faced in the sixth and three more in the seventh. Antonio Bastardo and winning pitcher Arquimedes Caminero each gave up a hit in the eighth and ninth, but neither runner reached second base. The Pirates also played a clean game in the field, with Alvarez making two fine plays at first and Ramirez making a graceful pick at third.

The Pirates are now 8-7 in extra-inning games, a big improvement since April and May. Since beginning a run of nine games against three first-place teams, the Pirates are now 5-2 with two left to play.

Not bad.