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Ninth inning rally pushes Pirates past Mets, 5-3

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at New York Mets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Shutout through seven innings, the Pirates appeared headed for their sixth loss in their last seven games - but then a funny thing happened on the way to the ninth inning.

The Mets’ Zach Wheeler was dominant through seven innings, posting a game score of 77 and not allowing a run as his fastball touched 97 mph. The Pirates’ listless bats managed five singles and one walk while going down on strikes seven times.

Meanwhile, Ivan Nova had run his scoreless innings streak to 14 before New York struck for a pair in the bottom of the third. Nova hit Amed Rosario with a pitch to lead off the inning, and after a pair of outs was at second base when Jose Bautista lined a double down the right field line, followed by Asdrubal Cabrera’s ground single to left that evaded Colin Moran’s range. Wilmer Flores’ solo homer in the sixth set the score at 3-0 Mets.

The Pirates broke through in the top of the eighth when Starling Marte lined a pinch-hit double to center to greet reliever Robert Gsellman. Marte stole third on the next pitch and scampered home on Austin Meadows’ sacrifice fly. After Josh Bell grounded a single up the middle, Gsellman was done and rookie Tim Peterson came on to strikeout Colin Moran and end the inning.

Down a pair of runs, manager Clint Hurdle called on Felipe Vazquez to prevent further damage, and that he did, allowing only a single while throwing 17 pitches.

On to the ninth, and despite Peterson having thrown only 9 pitches, Mets’ manager Mickey Callaway signaled for his closer, Jeurys Familia, who had thrown 35 pitches just the day before.

Elias Diaz ripped a grounder up the middle at 100.1 mph. Corey Dickerson lined a single to right at 99.8, sending Diaz to third. Gregory Polanco grounded a single to right at 100.4, driving in Diaz and cutting the Mets’ lead to just one. By that time Familia’s command had totally escaped him and Jordy Mercer walked on four pitches to load the bases, still with nobody out.

Callaway was out to the mound and calling on Anthony Swarzak, who barely had time for any warmup throws. David Freese then flared the first pitch into center for a two-run single, giving Pittsburgh a 4-3 lead. After Austin Meadows struck out, Josh Bell lifted a sacrifice fly to center to plate the fifth and final run.

One question remained - would good Felipe show up for his second inning of work, or would he fold like Familia? That was quickly answered as Michael Conforto was called out on strikes and the next two batters popped up weakly to end the game.

The victory gives the Pirates a winning series for the first time in...a long time, and keeps them from sliding any closer in the standing to last place Cincinnati, at least for now. They’ll take Thursday off as the team travels to San Diego to open a three game series at 10:10 pm Eastern on Friday evening, when Joe Musgrove will start in his home town.