Baxter’s pinch-hit single lifts Mets past Bucs
Center fielder Juan Lagares robbed Andrew McCutchen of a go-ahead hit in the top of the ninth inning, then pinch-hitter Mike Baxter’s single in the bottom half sent the New York Mets over the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 Thursday night.
Baxter delivered his second winning pinch-hit in three days. His 10th-inning single Tuesday beat the Chicago White Sox.
This time, Baxter batted for Lagares and won it.
Lagares was equally responsible for the victory. Before the game, Mets manager Terry Collins said the rookie might win a game with his glove — he was right, maybe sooner than he expected.
Called up from Triple-A on April 23 because of his bat and mitt, the center fielder preserved the ninth-inning tie with his defensive gem.
With a runner on first and two outs, McCutchen hit a loud shot into faraway right-center field. Lagares glided back, perfectly timed his leap and plucked the ball at the top of the fence as he rammed into the padded wall. It was a fantastic play, yet Lagares seemed so under control he made it look almost routine.
Marlon Byrd singled to start the Mets’ ninth off Jason Grilli (0-1). Andrew Brown sacrificed and Baxter followed by grounding a single up the middle, easily scoring Byrd.
Bobby Parnell (4-0) pitched the ninth. The Pirates have lost four of five.
Pedro Alvarez hit a solo home run with one out in the eighth off Mets reliever LaTroy Hawkins that made it 2-all. Alvarez began the day batting .168 and in a 1-for-16 rut before a single, sacrifice fly and long drive for his sixth homer.
Slumping Ike Davis put the Mets ahead 2-1 in the seventh after entering in the top half during a double switch. He took a terrible swing at a first-pitch slider, then hit the next pitch for an RBI double just beyond the reach of a sliding McCutchen deep in the right-center field alley.
Pittsburgh starter Jeff Locke left for a pinch-hitter in the seventh. He gave up three hits, all of them singles in the second inning.
The Pirates tied it at 1 in the sixth. They loaded the bases with no outs when McCutchen and Garrett Jones singled and Russell Martin was hit by a pitch, finishing starter Dillon Gee.
Reliever Brandon Lyon avoided major trouble, yielding only a sacrifice fly by Alvarez that made it 1-all.
The Mets scored in the second on singles by John Buck and Justin Turner and a sacrifice fly by Byrd. The run ended a streak of 15 scoreless innings on the road for Locke, a span that included outings at Dodger Stadium, Philadelphia and St. Louis.
Buck and Brown ended 0-for-14 slumps. Brown’s drought began last year with Colorado. Brown scored on Davis’ double. ... Martin had missed the previous two games because of a stiff neck. ... Pirates 2B Neil Walker (right hand cut) is starting a rehab assignment with Double-A Altoona. He can come off the disabled list Sunday. ... Pirates RHP Charlie Morton will throw a bullpen session Friday. He’s recovering from Tommy John surgery last June, and had shoulder stiffness last week in a Triple-A rehab outing.