Pirates 8, Mets 4
NEW YORK (AP)—After five innings Thursday, the Pittsburgh Pirates had managed one scratch one infield hit against Oliver Perez and trailed by a run. Eleven batters had gone down in a row, four straight on strikeouts. It was a depressingly familiar pattern for a team that had lost 10 of 11 games since the All-Star break.
Quickly, everything changed. And before they knew it, the Pirates had an 8-4 victory over the Mets.
“When you put hits together, good things happen,” noted Pirate manager Jim Tracy, repeating an old baseball adage.
Nate McLouth opened the sixth inning with a broken-bat single, and pitcher Paul Maholm followed with an infield hit. Then Perez threw away a bunt, allowing the tying run to score and setting up a five-run rally. Xavier Nady delivered a two-out, two-strike single for two runs, and Josh Phelps followed with a two-run homer.
“We caught a break on that bunt,” Tracy said. “That set the stage, and then we got two huge two-out hits. When we do things like that, we’re a good club.”
Maholm (7-12) made it all possible. He matched Perez after allowing a first-inning run, waiting for Pirates hitters to do something positive. This is a team that is next to last in the NL in runs, but the pitcher had faith in the offense.
“Oliver was throwing great,” Maholm said. “The offense had to figure him out. That’s kind of what happened. I’ve got a job to do no matter how many runs we score. I have all the confidence in the world in my team.”
It was the third win in four starts for Maholm, and Tracy was delighted with the left-hander.
“Maholm gave us another excellent pitching effort,” the manager said. “His command was terrific. The first inning, he was a little out of kilter but he minimized the damage.”
Perez protected the 1-0 lead into the sixth,
He ran into trouble in the sixth on McLouth’s broken-bat single. Maholm faked a bunt and then beat out a chopper to shortstop. Cesar Itzuris sacrificed, and when Perez made a bad throw, McLouth scored the tying run.
“It’s part of the game. I just threw it away,” Perez said. “I got to the ball quickly. Maybe I tried to throw too fast and that’s why I threw it away.”
Perez retired the next two hitters and had two strikes on Nady before surrendering a two-run single. Then Phelps followed with his third home run.
“It was a 2-2 fastball over the heart of the plate,” Phelps said. “That’s the best you can hope for in a count like that.”
“Everything happened kind of quick,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said. “But before that, you’ve got to field the position. It was a pretty good bunt, but if you make the throw, you get the guy out.”
After Lastings Milledge homered against Maholm in the bottom of the sixth, Pittsburgh added three runs in the seventh on five straight two-out hits. Jason Bay and Nady had RBI singles, and Phelps doubled against reliever Joe Smith, who was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans after the game.
Reyes homered in the eighth against Shawn Chacon.
: Reyes’ first-inning steal was his 48th this season. His eighth-inning homer was his seventh. … Mets CF Carlos Beltran remained sidelined by an abdominal muscle strain. … Perez threw 111 pitches in six innings, 72 for strikes. … Marte has retired 27 straight left-handed batters and has a 0.00 ERA in eight games during July. … Shea Stadium was being used for a pregame movie shoot starring Robin Williams and John Travolta, eliminating batting practice for both teams.