Flushing, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Gaby Sanchez's clutch single in the ninth drove in the go-ahead run and helped the Pittsburgh Pirates claim a 5-3 come-from-behind win against the New York Mets in the opener of a three-game set at Citi Field.
Neil Walker lined a one-out single and Andrew McCutchen drew a walk to put two on for Sanchez, who smacked a fastball off Jose Valverde (1-1) that plated Walker. McCutchen came around to score after Curtis Granderson's throw home was off target with Valverde failing to back-up catcher Juan Centeno. Russell Martin followed with a double to center to make it 5-2.
"The mentality in the dugout is that this is the inning. You have to be relentless," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.
Valverde entered in the eighth inning with a 2-1 lead and two outs to try and secure a four-out save. Instead, he was tagged for four runs on four hits and recorded just two outs.
The Mets released Valverde and relieved hitting coach Dave Hudgens of his duties after the game. New York has lost nine of its last 12 games and has not scored more than five runs in any of those setbacks.
"I'm not happy about it, it's not from lack of work or lack of preparation. It's just that sometimes you make change from change," said Mets manager Terry Collins.
Tony Watson (5-0), who has made 13 straight scoreless appearances, pitched the eighth for the Pirates, winners of five of their last six.
Mets starter Jacob deGrom was in line for the win before New York's recent bullpen woes continued. DeGrom allowed just five hits in 6 2/3 scoreless innings before handing the ball over to Jeurys Familia.
Familia froze McCutchen on a full-count slider with two on and two away in the seventh to maintain the Mets' 2-0 lead.
Sanchez, who was pinch hitting for Ike Davis, homered to left field off Scott Rice to open the eighth and cut the deficit to 2-1. Rice retired the next two hitters before Starling Marte welcomed Valverde by smacking his first pitch for a two-out double. Jose Tabata tied the game on a line-drive, pinch-hit single to right.
Lucas Duda stroked the first pitch off reliever Mark Melancon in the ninth inning over the right-field wall to account for the final 5-3 margin.
DeGrom singled to keep the fifth inning alive and Juan Lagares followed with a walk. Daniel Murphy lined a base hit to right fielder Josh Harrison that plated deGrom for the first run of the game. Harrison's throw to third was wide and LaGares rushed home but was called out. The umpires reviewed the play and it was overturned, giving the Mets a 2-0 advantage. Martin was called for blocking the plate with his leg without the ball.