NEW YORK (AP) — Moments before the game, rapper 50 Cent went into his best windup and was comically off target with a ceremonial first pitch that sailed way wide of home plate.
Pittsburgh Pirates starter Edinson Volquez and reliever Jeanmar Gomez were only marginally better, combining for six walks and four wild pitches Tuesday night in a 4-2 loss to the New York Mets.
“That’s what you’re supposed to do, keep the game close. But I know walks killed me tonight,” Volquez said.
Juan Lagares drove in two runs, Vic Black gave the Mets’ bullpen a boost and New York finally managed a few timely hits in its first game with a new batting coach.
Starling Marte hit a two-run single for the Pirates, who had won five of six. Volquez walked five and threw two wild pitches in five innings, extending his struggles on the road.
“It wasn’t like they were runaway walks. He was just off,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It was a challenge for him, but he kept us in the game.”
Daniel Murphy doubled twice and No. 8 batter Ruben Tejada reached base all four times up to help the Mets win for only the fourth time in 13 games. The victory came one day after batting coach Dave Hudgens was fired and replaced by Lamar Johnson, who had been New York’s minor league hitting coordinator.
Traded by the Pirates last season, Black (1-0) got four big outs in his first major league outing this year. Jenrry Mejia pitched two innings for his fourth save.
With a runner on, Curtis Granderson made an outstanding catch in the right-field corner for the second out of the ninth. Mejia then walked Andrew McCutchen and retired Mets nemesis Gaby Sanchez on a game-ending grounder.
“We kept pushing guys out there on all their pitchers, kept running up pitch counts,” Hurdle said. “We had multiple at-bats with eight pitches or more. We lined out multiple times. Some nights, that’s just the way it is.”
With the score 2-all, Tejada drew his second walk to start the sixth. He advanced on two wild pitches by Gomez (0-2) and scored when Lagares flicked a single over a drawn-in infield. Murphy followed with an RBI double to make it 4-2.
“He’s been on a good roll,” Hurdle said of Gomez. “It wasn’t one of his signature outings, but he’s been pitching well. Things just didn’t work for him tonight.”
Black struck out Sanchez with runners at the corners to end the seventh.
Pittsburgh had first and third again in the eighth when Mejia got pinch-hitter Pedro Alvarez to ground into an inning-ending double play.
“I’m ready for any situation,” Mejia said.
Handed a 2-0 lead, Mets starter Jonathon Niese let it slip away.
Normally a fast worker, Niese slowed his pace considerably as he walked three batters in the sixth. Marte’s bases-loaded single tied it, but Black struck out pinch-hitter Ike Davis with the sacks full to end the inning.
It was a matchup that pitted two players against their former teams. Black was acquired from Pittsburgh last August, and the Mets traded Davis to the Pirates last month.
Murphy doubled in the third and scored on Bobby Abreu’s two-out single. Tejada and Lagares both doubled off the left-field wall in the fourth to make it 2-0.
Lagares made a leaping catch of McCutchen’s drive at the 390-foot sign in right-center to end the first inning. McCutchen returned the favor with a spectacular, diving grab to rob Lagares of extra bases in the third.
“They kind of traded them, didn’t they?” Hurdle said. “We just couldn’t find gaps. Good plays by the center fielders, as good as you’re going to see.”
Said McCutchen: “Anytime a ball is hit, regardless of where it’s at, in my mind I’m going to get it.”
NOTES: Hurdle said he’s looking to get a day off soon for 2B Neil Walker, who has started all 51 games this season. … Fans behind the Pittsburgh dugout chanted Alvarez’s name when he walked to the plate. Alvarez did not start in his hometown against the left-hander. Josh Harrison played third base and batted leadoff. … RHP Charlie Morton (1-6, 3.29 ERA) faces Mets RHP Bartolo Colon (3-5, 5.34) in the series finale Wednesday afternoon.