NEW YORK -- Clint Hurdle's philosophy since he was entrusted with the task of managing the Pittsburgh Pirates and ending the longest stretch of losing seasons in the history of the four major sports has been a simple one: Finish the play.
The Pirates did just that during a wild sequence in the eighth inning Sunday. And if Pittsburgh finally finishes above .500 this year, the Pirates will likely look back on a single out on Mother's Day as the embodiment of Hurdle's teachings as well as the symbolic moment of the turnaround.
While Justin Wilson was credited with the victory and Jason Grilli got the save in the Pirates' 3-2 win over the New York Mets, Pittsburgh second baseman Brandon Inge and pitcher Mark Melancon were the ones who preserved the win when they ended the eighth inning by combining to record one of the most unique outs anyone in either dugout had ever seen.
With two outs and runners on second and third, Lucas Duda hit a hard grounder down the first base line that bounced off the bag and at least 20 feet into the air.
"You hit the bag, you're lucky," Hurdle said. "And we ended up being luckier. I mean, I've never seen a ball hit a bag and not be a hit."
It certainly looked to be a game-tying or go-ahead hit, but Inge -- who came into the game in a double switch in the sixth -- camped under the ball as Melancon raced to first base.
"(Duda) hit the bag and I immediately tilted my head back like (he was) deflated," said Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who had the go-ahead RBI single in the top of the eighth. "And then all of a sudden I see Inge come up with that play."
Inge caught the ball and fired a bullet to Melancon, who beat Duda to the bag and cradled Inge's throw as the ball bounced off his glove and into his midsection.
"Once I saw it hit the bag, I was far enough away from it to get a read on it," Inge said. "And then the middle of the play, I think I'm screaming at Melancon, telling him to get to the base because I didn't want him to give up on it. I'm yelling at him, then the ball comes down and I'm just willing that sucker to get to him as soon as it can."
Melancon held both arms aloft after touching the bag, partially to make sure first base umpire Rob Drake knew he had the ball and partially in stunned celebration that the Pirates had actually recorded the out.
"As soon as it was hit I thought 'OK good, a ground ball,'" Melancon said. "Then it hit the bag and it went, it felt, like a 100 feet in the air, and my stomach dropped. My heart dropped. And then I see Inge kind of camped under it and I'm thinking I've got to get to the bag, just in case we have a play."
Finishing that play gave the Pirates their third straight win and improved their record to 21-16. They were just 17-20 through 37 games last year -- Hurdle's second at the helm -- before winning 45 of their next 71 games to take a 2 1/2 game lead in the race for the second wild card.
But the Pirates went just 17-37 from Aug. 6 through the end of the regular season as they suffered their record 20th straight losing season. To snap that streak will require the kind of good luck the Pirates created for themselves on Sunday.
"There's been a lot of work done in a lot of different areas by a lot of different people," Hurdle said. "But it's a belief that the ball's hit, you finish the play. You just finish the play and you take nothing for granted. Weird things will happen and the game is waiting to expose you. And that was an opportunity [where] the game could have exposed us if we don't finish the play and we're not heads up.
"That's probably what I'm most proud of [and] take away from this game is the guys that were involved finished the play."
For the Mets, the final out of the eighth inning was an appropriate ending to a 2-4 homestand in which they scored just 14 runs and stranded 41 runners, including 22 in scoring position.
"You talk about 'Oh, we're snake bit' and all that, that's just part of the game," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "What's the next thing that's going to happen to keep us from having a big game? But we won games in this homestand by getting a couple big hits. So we've just got to start hitting with guys in scoring position."
For the Pirates, Alvarez went 2-for-4 and finished the series 6-for-11. Clint Barmes homered off Matt Harvey during the Pirates' two-run third inning and added a single in the seventh.
Wilson, the third of five Pirates pitchers, earned the win despite allowing the tying run during his 1 1/3 innings of work. Starter Jeanmar Gomez retired the final 11 batters he faced and allowed just one run on two hits in five innings before exiting with a tight right calf. He was hit there by a David Wright line drive in the first inning.
Scott Rice took the loss after issuing a one-out walk in the eighth to Andrew McCutchen, who scored on Alvarez's hit.
Harvey, five days removed from his one-hit masterpiece against the White Sox, gave up five hits and two walks while striking out four in seven innings. The outing actually raised Harvey's ERA to 1.44. The no-decision was his fourth in a row, a stretch in which he has pitched to a 1.98 ERA.
Duda homered in the second for the Mets and Mike Baxter had an RBI single in the seventh.
NOTES: The Mets placed right-handed reliever Jeurys Familia on the disabled list, retroactive to Thursday, with right biceps tendinitis and recalled right-handed reliever Greg Burke from Triple-A Las Vegas. Familia hadn't pitched in the previous three games after showing decreased velocity against the White Sox on Wednesday. Burke recorded a 7.36 ERA in seven appearances for the Mets earlier this season. ... Right-handed reliever Frank Francisco hit another hiccup in his recovery from off-season elbow surgery when he felt soreness in the elbow on Saturday. Francisco was days away from returning to the Mets before the latest setback. ... Pirates catcher Russell Martin didn't start for the fifth time in six games due to a stiff neck, but he was available off the bench so Pittsburgh sent catcher Tony Sanchez -- who was recalled to the "taxi squad" on Saturday -- back to Triple-A Indianapolis. ... Pirates second baseman Neil Walker is expected to be activated from the disabled list Monday. Walker went 2-for-3 for Double-A Altoona Sunday and is hitting .417 (5-for-12) in four rehab games. Walker has been out since April 27 due to a right hand laceration.