By WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Lucas Duda smacked a go-ahead RBI-single in
the top of the eighth in support of starter R.A. Dickey and the New
York Mets edged the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 on Tuesday night.
Dickey (6-1) struck out a career-high 11 in seven innings,
giving up one run on four hits to move into a tie with a host of
others for the most wins in the majors. Frank Francisco pitched the
ninth for his 11th save.
Josh Harrison had two hits for the Pirates, who couldn’t take
advantage of another strong start by James McDonald.
Mike Baxter, batting leadoff for the first time in his career,
doubled off Juan Cruz (1-1) with one out in the eighth then came
home two batters later when Duda’s liner glanced off the glove of
first baseman Garrett Jones and rolled into right field.
New York added an insurance run on an error by Pittsburgh’s
Pedro Alvarez and the Mets hung on.
Dickey’s darting 80 mph knuckleball isn’t designed to rack up
strikeouts, but then again the free-swinging Pirates have a way of
making opposing hurlers look overpowering.
Pittsburgh began the night with the most strikeouts in baseball
and had little trouble adding to the total. Though manager Clint
Hurdle warned his players to stay patient and only let it rip if
the knuckleball stayed up, the Pirates continued to hack away.
Dickey, enjoying a late-career revival at age 37, 10 straight at
one point and the only batter he struggled to put away the 5-foot-9
Harrison, a utility player who keeps finding his way into the
lineup with his spirited play.
McDonald has evolved into arguably the most consistent pitcher
on one of baseball’s most surprising staffs. The 27-year-old who
once had major issues throwing deep into games because of his
command has worked into the seventh inning in five of his last six
starts while becoming a legitimate strikeout pitcher.
Mixing his fastball and curveball effectively, McDonald allowed
one run on four hits in seven innings, walking two and striking out
eight. McDonald threw 71 of his 104 pitches for strikes while
lowering his ERA to 2.51.
The Mets only broke through once, using two walks and an
RBI-single by Mike Nickeas to take a 1-0 lead in the second.
Nickeas was nailed at second base trying to stretch his hit into a
double, cutting short the rally. New York wouldn’t get a runner to
third during McDonald’s last five innings.
Dickey matched McDonald whiff for whiff except when Harrison was
in the box. The right-fielder doubled in the first and tripled in
the sixth, coming home on Andrew McCutchen’s sacrifice fly to tie
the game at 1.
Pittsburgh’s bullpen, a major reason the offensively challenged
Pirates have remained competitive, faltered for once. Cruz entered
the game with a 0.56 ERA, fourth-best among National League
Baxter, however drilled a shot off McCutchen’s glove in center
field to get New York started in the eighth and the Mets were on
their way to improving to 9-5 in one-run games.
NOTES: New York 3B David Wright went 0 for 4 as his average
dropped to .403, still tops in baseball … New York SS Ruben
Tejada, on the disabled list since May 7 with a strained right
calf, had four hits in an extended spring training game on Tuesday
… Pittsburgh P Jeff Karstens will make a second rehab start on
Saturday. The right-hander has been on the disabled list with right
shoulder inflammation since April … The series concludes on
Wednesday when New York’s Jonathon Niese (2-2, 4.85 ERA) faces
Pittsburgh’s Charlie Morton (2-4, 4.35) at 12:35.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)