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Nicasio, bullpen take Pirates to sweep with 3-1 reprise

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe it was Jameson Taillon's arrival in town, or maybe it was just that the Mets are in a brief hitting slump.  Whatever it was, Juan Nicasio gave the Pirates a strong, if brief, start, and the offense again did just enough against another outstanding young Mets' starter.  Along with an uncharacteristically dominant effort by the Pirates' bullpen, it all led to a doubleheader sweep by another 3-1 margin.

Jacob DeGrom showed his dominant stuff, fanning nine over six innings.  As in the first game, though, the Pirates managed to run up the enemy's pitch count; of course, it's hard to get quick outs when the hitters can't make contact.  Just the same, the Bucs got to DeGrom in the second.  Jordy Mercer singled with one out and Sean Rodriguez doubled him to third.  Cole Figueroa, starting at second, got one run in with a slow, checked-swing ground out.  Chris Stewart brought in another with a slow roller to short that Asdrubal Cabrera couldn't make a play on.

Nicasio meanwhile was channeling Spring Training Nicasio.  He blew the Mets away for four innings, retiring 12 straight, striking out seven.  The Mets got their first baserunner when Neil Walker led off the fifth with a single, but a double play wiped him out.  Nicasio then struggled to get out of the inning, giving up a double, a wild pitch, a walk and a groundball single before retiring DeGrom.

The Pirates got the run back in the bottom half when Chris Stewart singled and Nicasio, after failing to bunt, banked a single off DeGrom into left, putting runners on the corners.  John Jaso then doubled to right center, driving in Stewart and sending Nicasio to third.  The Bucs missed a chance to extend the lead further, though, when Andrew McCutchen fanned and Gregory Polanco grounded out.  McCutchen also killed a seventh-inning rally by hitting into a double play; lately, instead of being the guy the team wants at the plate in key spots, he's been the guy you don't want to see up.  Matt Joyce also had a rough day, striking out all four times up while replacing the discomfort-suffering Starling Marte.  (The good news is that the President had asked Congress for funding to allow the Centers for Disease Control to research a possible vaccine for the dreaded and highly contagious Discomfort Virus.)

When Nicasio walked Curtis Granderson to start the sixth, Clint Hurdle went to his wobbly bullpen.  He chose his severely struggling double play specialist, Jared Hughes, who promptly got a double play and another grounder.  The also severely struggling Tony Watson pitched the seventh and didn't throw a lot of strikes, but had a perfect inning anyway.  Neftali Feliz struck out the side in the eighth, after which the Pirates blew yet another scoring chance when they loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning only to have Figueroa pop out and Stewart ground out.  Mark Melancon struck out the side in the ninth, giving the Pirates' pitchers 14 whiffs on the game and Melancon his 19th save.