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May 10, 2013

Lagares catch, Baxter hit lead Mets over Pirates

NEW YORK — Once Juan Lagares saved the game with his glove, he gladly let Mike Baxter win it with his bat.

Lagares robbed Andrew McCutchen of a go-ahead hit with a leaping catch at the wall in the top of the ninth inning, then Baxter’s pinch-hit single in the bottom half sent the New York Mets over the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 Thursday night.

“At home plate, I didn’t do very well with the bat,” Lagares said. “I tried to forget it and play defense.”

Baxter delivered his second winning pinch-hit in three days. His 10th-inning single Tuesday beat the Chicago White Sox.

This time, Baxter batted for Lagares and won it.

“Very enjoyable. Good feeling,” Baxter said.

Lagares was equally responsible for the victory. Before the game, Mets manager Terry Collins said the rookie center fielder might win a game with his defense – he was right, maybe sooner than he expected.

Called up from Triple-A on April 23 because of his bat and mitt, Lagares preserved the ninth-inning tie with his gem.

With a runner on first and two outs, McCutchen hit a loud shot into faraway right-center field. Lagares glided back, perfectly timed his leap and plucked the ball at the top of the fence as he rammed into the padded wall. It was a fantastic play, yet he seemed so under control he made it look almost routine.

“I got a good jump,” he said. “I saw it all the way into the glove.”

Asked if he thought the ball would’ve cleared the wall, Lagares said it was close. Either way, it would’ve at least been a tiebreaking extra-base hit.

“That was huge,” Baxter said. “Lagares saves the game.”

McCutchen wasn’t so surprised.

“I thought he was going to catch it at the wall. I didn’t think I got enough of it to get it out,” he said.

Marlon Byrd singled to start the Mets’ ninth off Jason Grilli (0-1). Andrew Brown sacrificed and Baxter followed by grounding a single up the middle, easily scoring Byrd.

It’s been quite a week for Baxter, who grew up in the shadow of Shea Stadium – just a few minutes from where Citi Field now stands.

Baxter is now 5 for 9 as a pinch-hitter this season. Not bad for someone who, before this week, might’ve been known solely for making a sensational catch to preserve Johan Santana’s no-hitter last year.

Bobby Parnell (4-0) pitched the ninth. The Pirates have lost four of five.

Pedro Alvarez hit a solo home run with one out in the eighth off Mets reliever LaTroy Hawkins that made it 2-all. Alvarez began the day batting .168 and in a 1-for-16 rut before a single, sacrifice fly and long drive for his sixth homer.

Slumping Ike Davis put the Mets ahead 2-1 in the seventh after entering in the top half during a double switch. He took a terrible swing at a first-pitch slider, then hit the next pitch for an RBI double just beyond the reach of a sliding McCutchen deep in the right-center field alley.

Pittsburgh starter Jeff Locke left for a pinch-hitter in the seventh. He gave up three hits, all of them singles in the second inning.

The Pirates tied it at 1 in the sixth. They loaded the bases with no outs when McCutchen and Garrett Jones singled and Russell Martin was hit by a pitch, finishing starter Dillon Gee.

Reliever Brandon Lyon avoided major trouble, yielding only a sacrifice fly by Alvarez that made it 1-all.

The Mets scored in the second on singles by John Buck and Justin Turner and a sacrifice fly by Byrd. The run ended a streak of 15 scoreless innings on the road for Locke, a span that included outings at Dodger Stadium, Philadelphia and St. Louis.

Notes: Baxter and Alvarez both played high school ball in New York City and went to Vanderbilt. ... Buck and Brown ended 0-for-14 slumps. Brown’s drought began last year with Colorado. Brown scored on Davis’ double. ... Martin had missed the previous two games because of a stiff neck. ... Pirates 2B Neil Walker (right hand cut) is starting a rehab assignment with Double-A Altoona. He can come off the disabled list Sunday. ... Pirates RHP Charlie Morton will throw a bullpen session today. He’s recovering from Tommy John surgery last June, and had shoulder stiffness last week in a Triple-A rehab outing.

 

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