Reliever Mark Melancon said his heart sunk. Second baseman Brandon Inge figured, that’s it, two runs. Pedro Alvarez watched from third base and tossed his head back, disappointed.
Still, Inge tracked Lucas Duda’s scorching grounder up the first-base line and Melancon broke for the bag.
Good thing, too. The baseball struck first base and shot straight up in the air, maybe 20 feet.
With Duda lumbering down the line, Inge ranged behind first and took a small hop to catch the ball. He then whipped a throw to Melancon for the final out of the eighth inning, possibly saving two runs and helping Pittsburgh beat the New York Mets 3-2 Sunday.
“Inge stayed with the play, Melancon finished his route right to the bag, and we get the out,” Pirates manager Hurdle said. “Our guys didn’t quit once maybe a little adversity was thrown at them.”
Alvarez hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the top of the eighth against New York’s overworked bullpen. Clint Barmes homered, Garrett Jones had a sacrifice fly and Jeanmar Gomez left with a lead against young ace Matt Harvey as the Pirates finished the four-game series with their third straight win.
Mets relievers had pitched 13 innings over the previous three games, so manager Terry Collins was looking for another deep effort from Harvey in his 18th big league start following a nine-inning, one-hit gem on Tuesday. Harvey went seven, lifted for a pinch-hitter with the score 2-all.
Scott Rice (1-2) walked Pirates slugger Andrew McCutchen with one out in the eighth before Brandon Lyon walked pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez. Lyon struck out pinch-hitter Jose Tabata, then gave way to closer Bobby Parnell.
Alvarez, who played high school ball in New York City, singled to left-center for a 3-2 lead.
“It’s always good to come back home and have a good series,” said Alvarez, who was 6 for 11 against the Mets to raise his average above .200 for the first time since the opening week of the season. “It’s icing on the cake.”
The Mets had an opportunity in the eighth against Melancon, putting runners on first and third with one out. Ike Davis struck out as David Wright swiped second — New York’s fourth stolen base of the day — before Duda hit the wicked grounder. When Inge caught the ball, he made a strong throw to Melancon, drawing gasps from many of the 28,404 in attendance.