David Freese’s line drive to the wall in right-center with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth capped off his perfect night as the Pirates came away with a 5-4 victory over the visiting Mets.
The Pirates’ starter Ivan Nova quickly found himself in a hole as the first three batters of the game scored on Michael Conforto’s homer to the seats in right, his 14th of the year.
Freese struck back against Mets’ starter Jason Vargas in the second inning with a homer to the left center bleachers, scoring Elias Diaz, who had singled, and cutting the deficit to 3-2. He then gave the Pirates a fifth inning 4-3 lead on a two out bases loaded single off reliever Seth Lugo that plated both Jordan Luplow and Gregory Polanco.
Nova settled down, allowing only three base runners from the second through the fifth innings, but ran himself out of the game when he walked both Conforto and Jose Bautista to open the sixth. Jeff McNeil greeted reliever Edgar Santana with a bunt that the pitcher dropped for an error to load the bases. After fanning Kevin Plawecki on a nasty slider for the first out, Jose Reyes lined a ball to short left field. Jordan Luplow charged and made a fine running grab for the second out, but his throw home was rushed and sailed to the backstop. Both catcher Elias Diaz and the out of position Santana converged on the carom off the bricks, but Diaz was late in reversing course and covering home as Conforto barely slid in with the tying run.
The game stayed tied as the Mets trotted out four more from the bullpen to get through the sixth, seventh and eighth, although the Bucs loaded the bases in the sixth before Josh Harrison bounced into an inning ending double play. Meanwhile Santana was followed by Kyle Crick and Felipe Vazquez.
In the bottom of the ninth the Mets sent out their sixth man from the bullpen, rookie Tim Peterson, to face the heart of the Pirates’ order. Josh Harrison started it off by beating out a slow grounder to short, then Gregory Polanco rolled a ball through the right side that sent Harrison to third. With nobody out, New York manager Mickey Callaway elected to intentionally walk Elias Diaz, who was two-for-three in the game, to load the bases and set up a force at home plate. With both the infield and outfield drawn up to choke off the winning run, Freese drove the first pitch on a bounce off the wall in right center, recorded as a single as Harrison trotted home with the winning run.
Freese ended the night three-for-three with two walks, driving in all five of the Pirates’ runs with two singles and a homer. In addition to Diaz, Polanco also had two hits.
The win, needed to help restore faith in a possibility of a pennant run, lifted the Pirates’ record to 54-51, 7.0 games behind the Cubs in the National league Central and only 2.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot.
We’ll be Gathering at the ballpark as the series continues at 7:05 pm Saturday evening, with Trevor Williams (7-7, 4.11) facing the Major Leagues’ ERA leader Jacob deGrom (5-5, 1.71).