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Jon Niese shuts down former teammates in 3-1 Pirates' win

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In a game of reunions, the Pirates got the better of the deal across the board as Jon Niese threw seven shutout innings against his former teammates.  That gave the Pirates the first game of their doubleheader, 3-1.

Niese didn't blow anybody away, striking out only two, but he kept the ball on the ground -- 14 ground outs to two fly outs -- and in the park.  He gave up only four hits and two walks, and pitched out of just a couple tight spots.  Niese breezed through three innings before a two-out single by Neil Walker was followed by another hit and a walk, but Niese stranded three by fanning Michael Conforto.  Walker, by the way, got a nice ovation in his return to his home town.  The following inning, Mets' pitcher Steven Matz hit a one-out triple, but Niese got two ground outs and stranded that runner.  Niese then pitched through the seventh, allowing just one more runner on a walk.

The Pirates meanwhile had more opportunities than production.  They ran up the pitch count of the very tough Matz, as he needed 101 to get through just five innings.  The PIrates had eight hits and two walks off him, but that got them only two runs.  Ultimately, they stranded ten runners while going 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position.  They did, however, manage enough to win.

The Bucs got on the board in the first after Josh Harrison, who had three hits on the day, led off with a triple.  Andrew McCutchen fanned, but David Freese singled to right to plate the run.  The Bucs missed another chance in the third when Harrison and McCutchen started the inning with singles.  Freese struck out, though, and Jung-Ho Kang grounded into a double play.  In the fifth, Harrison singled and stole second, then scored on another McCutchen single.  Kang also singled in the inning, but the Pirates left two on.  In the sixth, Mercer launched his second HR into the Mets' bullpen in center off former Pirate Antonio Bastardo.  The Pirates wasted another chance in the seventh, when Freese and Kang led off with a double and a walk.  Matt Joyce struck out while pinch hitting for Starling Marte, who left as part of the "discomfort" epidemic that's hit the team, in his case in his left ankle.  The still-slumping Francisco Cervelli and Gregory Polanco were both retired to end the threat.

Meanwhile, in the eighth inning Clint Hurdle, having seen enough of Tony Watson's recent struggles, turned to Neftali Feliz.  Feliz made things interesting, coughing up a leadoff HR to Curtis Granderson.  He helped himself by making a nice play on a good bunt attempt by the next hitter, Asdrubal Cabrera.  He walked Yoenis Cespedes, but got grounders from Walker and Wilmer Flores.  Mark Melancon then eschewed any further drama, getting two grounders and a strikeout in the ninth for his 18th save.