PITTSBURGH (AP)—The Pittsburgh Pirates are proving they sure know how to ruin a party—or at least delay one.
For the second night in a row, the Pirates prevented the New York Mets from clinching the NL East when Ronny Paulino hit an RBI double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 3-2 victory Saturday night.
The Mets’ magic number for clinching their first division title since 1988 remained at one. New York could’ve won it Friday night, too, but lost to Pittsburgh 5-3.
“It’s a matter of time. It’s inevitable,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said. “We’d like to get it done sooner or later. Who knows the way things work out? We still get to go home (Monday), so we might get it done there.
“But we will try to get it done (Sunday). We will.”
Second-place Philadelphia earlier staved off elimination for the second straight day, beating Houston 7-2.
After Paul Lo Duca flied out with a runner on second to end the Mets ninth, the Pirates won it in front of only their sixth sellout crowd of the season.
“I had a chance to put us ahead, and I just didn’t get it done,” Lo Duca said. “The guy made a good pitch on me.
“I don’t think we are pressing—we ran into a couple good left-handers and they’ve got a good ballclub. They’re playing a lot better in the second half of the season, and we haven’t been swinging the bats that well. We’ve got to go get them tomorrow.”
Matt Capps (8-1) got two outs in the ninth to get the win.
“This is great,” Capps said. “With them needing one win to clinch it and knowing that and not wanting to see them do it at our place … just the excitement all through the team and clubhouse is fun. I was really pumped. It’s been a great atmosphere to play in the last two nights.”
Jason Bay hit his 34th home run for the Pirates, who have won four of five and are 32-27 since the All-Star break.
Carlos Delgado had two hits and two RBIs for the Mets.
“We’re so close and it’s just a matter of time before we go out there and win a game and clinch it,” Delgado said.
Delgado doubled home Carlos Beltran in the first for a 1-0 lead. During the inning, Bay slid into the padding next to the left-field line chasing a foul ball and stayed on the ground for a moment.
The Mets tied it off Shane Youman in the fifth when Delgado singled home Lo Duca, who had two hits.
Pittsburgh put the leadoff man on base in the sixth and seventh innings, but could not advance him. Beltran made a catch in center field and doubled Freddy Sanchez off first in the sixth. Pinch-runner Rajai Davis was caught stealing on a pitchout in the seventh.
Sanchez went 1-for-4 and is now hitting .340—one point behind Florida’s Miguel Cabrera in the NL batting race.
“We had our shots tonight but we didn’t come through, that’s the bottom line,” Randolph said. “But this team has a way of bouncing back. We’ve done it all year long. The good thing about it is it’s a quick night and we will be back here early tomorrow.
“It’s not like we are a game or two out and that makes it a lot easier not to (fret over).”
Pittsburgh rookie Tom Gorzelanny made his first start since Aug. 15 and went four innings, allowing one run and four hits with two walks. He had been on the disabled list with tendinitis in his left elbow, and the Pirates were careful to monitor his pitch count. The left-hander threw 71 pitches and left the game with the Pirates ahead 2-1.
“That was the most fun I have had in a game in a long time—especially the ending,” Gorzelanny said. “It was good to get back out there. The bottom line is I’m happy to be back and to go against a good team like that and be pretty successful at that stage made me happy.”
Hernandez threw seven innings, allowing two runs and six hits with a walk and seven strikeouts. He has allowed three earned runs in 21 innings against Pittsburgh this season.
While the fifth-place Pirates celebrated wildly after the winning hit, the Mets’ clubhouse was quiet and somber—an eerie scene with clear plastic that was to be used to protect players’ belongings from spraying champagne rolled up above the lockers.
“Today would’ve been a great day to do it,” Shawn Green said. “But I’m pretty confident we’ll get it done. Hopefully tomorrow.”
Pittsburgh OF Chris Duffy has a career-high 10-game hitting streak and stole his 20th base. … Youman had his first major league hit, a single, to lead off the fifth. … The last team to clinch a division in Pittsburgh was the St. Louis Cardinals in 1996.