By WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Neil Walker homered twice in his return to his hometown, Jacob deGrom gave New York’s bullpen a needed rest and the Mets beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-1 on Friday night.
Walker, who grew up in Pittsburgh and played seven seasons for the Pirates before being traded to New York in December 2015, finished 3 for 5 with four RBIs. He hit a two-run shot off Chad Kuhl (1-5) in the third and added a solo blast to right-center in the fifth.
DeGrom (4-1) became the first Mets starter to get an out in the eighth inning since last June, pitching 8 1/3 innings and giving up a run with 10 strikeouts and one walk. DeGrom also had two of New York’s 12 hits.
Gregory Polanco returned from the disabled list to collect two of Pittsburgh’s six hits, including a solo home run in the fourth.
Kuhl failed to make it past the fifth inning for his seventh consecutive start. He gave up five runs in 4 1/3 innings and hasn’t won since beating Atlanta on April 8.
The Pirates shipped the popular Walker to the Mets in exchange for pitcher Jon Niese rather than sign Walker to a contract extension. The weekend series marked his second return trip as a player to the place where he grew up, and he certainly looked at home in his former ballpark.
Walker gave the Mets a 3-0 lead when he lofted Kuhl’s offering into the first row of seats over the 21-foot-high Roberto Clemente Wall in right field in the third. Two innings later, he went out even deeper to right for his 500th career RBI. It also marked the fourth multihomer game of Walker’s career and his first in 425 games at PNC Park.
It was more than enough for deGrom, the lone consistent bright spot for New York’s messy starting rotation. He improved to 4-0 in his last six starts and lowered his ERA to 3.23.
Fernando Salas got the final two outs for New York, and the Mets ended a franchise-record run of 26 consecutive games using at least three relievers.
Noah Syndergaard was the only Mets starter to pitch at least 7 1/3 innings in a game in 2016, doing so June 15 against the Pirates. New York had 12 such outings in the regular season on its way to the World Series in 2015.
Time may be running out for Kuhl to stay in Pittsburgh’s rotation. His ERA sits at 6.29 after struggling to handle New York’s heavily left-handed lineup. Lefties came in hitting .333 against Kuhl this season, and seven of the eight hits he allowed were to left-handed batters.
MOVING ON DOWN
The Pirates bumped slumping star Andrew McCutchen from third in the lineup to sixth, the first time in his career the five-time All-Star hit below fifth. Pittsburgh is hoping the move will help kickstart McCutchen, who was benched for the final two games of a series in Atlanta and entered Friday hitting just .203 on the season and .163 in May. McCutchen went 1 for 4 to bump his average to .205.
New York sent struggling Rafael Montero to Triple-A Las Vegas and called up right-hander Tyler Pill. Montero is 0-4 with an 8.24 ERA and gave up three runs in three innings of a loss to San Diego on Thursday. Pill is 3-1 with a 1.96 ERA in Triple-A this season.
To make room for Pill on the 40-man roster, New York moved pitcher Seth Lugo from the 10-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list.
Mets: OF Yoenis Cespedes (left hamstring strain) went 0 for 2 with a walk and a run scored in a rehab appearance for Class A St. Lucie. Cespedes played six innings in left field before being removed. … LHP Steven Matz (elbow inflammation) is scheduled to make a rehab start for Triple-A Las Vegas this weekend. Lugo (right elbow) will make a rehab start for Double-A Binghamton this weekend.
Mets: Zack Wheeler (3-2, 3.74 ERA) will try to keep his hot May going on Saturday. Wheeler is 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA in three starts this month. This is his first career start against Pittsburgh.
Pirates: Gerrit Cole (2-5, 3.36 ERA) is 1-1 with a 1.67 ERA in four starts at PNC Park this season. Cole gave up five runs in 4 2/3 innings on Monday against Atlanta.
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