John Jaso’s ninth- and 10th-inning singles scored the tying and winning runs, capping a long, slow comeback by the Pirates for a 5-4 victory over the Mets on Saturday night at PNC Park.
Jaso was one of a few unlikely heroes. Wade LeBlanc and Juan Nicasio were excellent in middle relief after Gerrit Cole struggled, and the Pirates bullpen shut the Mets out for five innings.
The Pirates were down 4-2 when LeBlanc entered for Cole in the sixth. LeBlanc went two strong, Nicasio one and Felipe Rivero pitched one more for four hitless innings, then Tony Watson escaped a jam in the 10th.
The Bucs pulled to within one, 4-3, in the sixth when Andrew McCutchen -- who had homered earlier — doubled home Josh Bell. McCutchen attempted to tie it then and there, bizarrely attempting to score from second on Francisco Cervelli’s two-out grounder, but he was easily cut down at the plate by Asdrubal Cabrera, who may not have had a play on Cervelli, but definitely made the stop and was not in a position where one might test him, I would think.
The Pirates stranded Jordy Mercer on third in the seventh and couldn’t get anything going in the eighth. Mercer doubled off Addison Reed with one out in the ninth and a wild pitch moved up his pinch runner, Gift Ngoepe. Jaso, pinch-hitting, knocked a single to left to plate Ngoepe. Adam Frazier singled, sending the go-ahead runner in Jaso to third, but Josh Harrison grounded out and Bell smoked one that Juan Lagares, a really excellent defensive replacement in center field, got to.
The Bucs loaded the bases in the 10th, as David Freese got a one-out single, then Tyler Pill hit McCutchen in the back and walked Francisco Cervelli in a nine-pitch at-bat. Ngoepe popped out, then Mets manager Terry Collins brought in left-hander Josh Edgin. With only Chris Stewart available off the bench, Clint Hurdle let Jaso bat. Jaso hung in another long at-bat, finally sending the ninth pitch over a drawn-in Jay Bruce’s head in right. As Joe Block immediately pointed out on the radio, it was Jaso’s first hit off a lefty in more than a year.
For the second straight start Cole allowed 10 hits and didn’t make it into the sixth. Bruce clubbed a solo homer in the first inning. Curtis Granderson tripled and scored on Travis d’Arnaud’s single in the second. d’Arnaud and Lucas Duda added solo homers of their own in the fourth and fifth, respectively.
That Cole only allowed four runs in his five innings seemed amazing. The Pirates never trailed by more than two, but it certainly felt demoralizing as Cole was getting knocked around the park and Mets starter Zack Wheeler was solid, if not quite dealing.
Cole stranded eight runners, including a man on third four times. On three occasions the Mets doubled with a runner on first, and each time that runner did not score — more a combination of fielding, circumstance and slow Neil Walker than awful baserunning — and each time he was eventually stranded, which would eventually factor largely.
McCutchen smoked a two-run homer to center in the second. Hitting in the sixth spot again, he went 2-for-3 with three RBIs. Cervelli, Mercer and, of course, Jaso also had two hits apiece.
The rubber match is a Sunday night affair, with two pitchers under the microscope — Matt Harvey and Tyler Glasnow — squaring off.