By Ben Weinrib and Bob Cohn
Special to MLB.com |
PITTSBURGH -- Following one of his best starts of the season, Jacob deGrom spun yet another gem, and hometown hero Neil Walker provided the offense with two homers and four RBIs in the Mets' 8-1 win over the Pirates at PNC Park on Friday.
deGrom was masterful over 8 1/3 innings, striking out 10 and walking just one. After holding a 3.99 ERA through his first eight starts, he has given up just one run over 15 1/3 innings in his last two outings. Since his May 14 start against the Brewers, when he was tagged for four runs, he has turned a corner.
"You just saw location. It was outstanding. He pitched outside corner, he pitched in, he used his breaking ball effectively. I know he worked on a couple of things after the Milwaukee game and it's starting to pay off."
Curtis Granderson got the scoring started with a single in the second, and Walker homered in the third and fifth innings, drawing applause both times. It was Walker's fifth career multi-homer game -- three of them coming with the Pirates -- but his first at PNC Park. Walker added one more run in the Mets' three-run sixth with a bloop single to shallow left, bringing him to 501 career RBIs. More >
"Neil's a good ballplayer," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who managed Walker from 2011-15. "He put a couple good swings on the ball tonight and a couple home runs out of the ballpark. We didn't pitch him and get the spots we wanted to, and he took advantage of it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Costly wild pitch: The Mets jumped on an early mistake by the Pirates to extend their lead, when Jose Reyes reached on a strikeout after Pirates starter Chad Kuhl's wild pitch. Thanks to Reyes reaching base, Walker was able to come up with two outs later in the inning and launch his first homer, which would give the Mets enough offense for the rest of the game. That was Kuhl's first wild pitch of the season in 45 1/3 innings.
"We play 162 of these," Hurdle said. "You see a lot of different stuff, so you don't over-cook it. You've got to execute in this game to put yourself in a situation to have success. When you don't execute, most of these guys have heard me say over and over again that you put yourself at the mercy of the game."
Polanco shaking off the rust: Polanco's return was very much up-and-down. Lucas Duda led off the second with a ball over Polanco's head that had a 13 percent catch rate, according to Statcast™, but Polanco pulled up early, and the ball bounced off the bottom of the wall for a double. Polanco made up for it with his homer, but he misplayed another double in the sixth by pulling up too soon on Duda's line drive that had a 35 percent hit rate.
"For me, it's a pleasant surprise," Hurdle said of Polanco. "I don't set my expectations. He went out there, he was aggressive with his swing, and he got a ball over the plate, and he drilled it. The other pitches, the other at-bats, he was in the hunt fighting.
"He got to see spin, he got to see velocity, he got to see a guy that pitched one of the best games that we've had pitched against us all year. He was in a competitive place for four at-bats."
"This might have been the best he's been all season. In out, up, down, fastballs, sliders, changeups. He was really really sharp. He picked us up tonight as far as giving the relievers a breather that they much needed, a good start to the series." -- Walker, on deGrom
WHAT'S NEXT Mets: Right-hander Zack Wheeler takes the mound against the Pirates on Saturday at 7:15 p.m. ET at PNC Park. Wheeler issued a season-high five walks in his last start, but he's maintained a 4.2 K/BB ratio over 43 1/3 innings this season. He hasn't given up more than two runs in any of his last four starts.
Pirates: Right-hander Gerrit Cole gets the call for the Pirates as they host the Mets on Saturday at 7:15 ET. Cole was tagged for five runs in his last start, which ended a stretch of seven straight starts with two or fewer runs given up.