Mets salvage series finale, top Pirates on Wilmer Flores' pinch-hit

PITTSBURGH -- PNC Park has not been a kind venue to the New York Mets in recent years. They couldn't clinch the NL East title on three straight days in Pittsburgh in 2006. Billy Wagner had a failed simulated game at the ballpark, which cemented the need for Tommy John surgery. Jordany Valdespin had a clubhouse outburst after receiving word he had been demoted. And David Wright's spinal stenosis diagnosis was announced here last season.

And that barely touches the in-game struggles.

Finally, though, things broke right for the Mets on Wednesday.

Wilmer Flores dropped a pinch-hit RBI single in center field against Cory Luebke with the bases loaded in the 10th inning. Jeurys Familia walked three batters in the final frame but ultimately kept the Pittsburgh Pirates off the scoreboard to convert his franchise-record 35th straight regular-season save as the Mets prevailed 6-5.

The Mets (32-26) improved to 2-22 when trailing after seven innings. They had lost nine straight games to the Pirates.

“We had to work hard for everything we got,” manager Terry Collins said. “And then to make it stand up was a struggle. We’ll take it and get out of here.”

Said Flores: “I tried to get something up. ... I didn’t want to pull the ball. He got on me a little bit, but sometimes better lucky than good.”

It could have been a lot simpler on Wednesday, however.

With setup man Tony Watson being held back for the final inning because closer Mark Melancon had been used in both games of Tuesday's doubleheader, Michael Conforto produced a game-tying, two-run homer in the eighth against Jared Hughes. However, the Mets failed to take the lead later that inning. After placing two runners in scoring position with none out, James Loney grounded out as the runners held. An intentional walk to Asdrubal Cabrera loaded the bases. Ty Kelly then flied out too shallow for a tag, and pinch hitter Curtis Granderson grounded out as the score remained tied at 5.

“I think recently the at-bats have been better,” said Conforto, who entered the day in a 4-for-39 rut. “Not all of them, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

So-so: Noah Syndergaard overcame a high early pitch count to log six innings in a no-decision. Syndergaard surrendered a career-high five doubles. The Pirates also stole four bases against the Rene Rivera-Syndergaard tandem. Syndergaard batted for himself in the top of the seventh with his pitch count at 102 and the score tied at 3. Collins then inserted Jim Henderson for the bottom half. Henderson proceeded to allow two runs as the Pirates took a 5-3 lead.

“It was just a battle out there from the get-go,” Syndergaard said. “I didn’t really feel too comfortable out there. I didn’t have the extra life on the fastball I normally have. I didn’t locate my breaking pitches all that well.”

Debutant: Highly regarded Pittsburgh prospect Jameson Taillon allowed three runs on six hits and two walks in six innings in a no-decision in his major league debut. The primary damage came on a two-run homer by Kelly in the fourth. Syndergaard doubled and scored on Conforto's sacrifice fly the following inning to even the score at 3. Kelly's homer was the first of his major league career. He joked afterward that he would inscribe a note on the baseball once he could figure out the date and how to spell Taillon's name.

“He’s legitimate,” Collins said about Taillon. “He’s got a good arm. A big curveball. A decent change. I’m sure the nerves were something he had to fight through tonight. He’ll be OK. He’s got good stuff.”

Oops: Neil Walker arrived in Pittsburgh having committed only one error all season. He then had three errors in the series against his former team. Walker had a costly miscue in the first inning on Wednesday. John Jaso's leadoff grounder went through his legs, and Jaso ultimately scored the opening run in what became a two-run first inning against Syndergaard. (Syndergaard previously had allowed only two first-inning runs all season.) Walker also had an error on Gregory Polanco's double in the seventh. Walker muffed the relay, allowing Andrew McCutchen to score from first base and Polanco to reach third. The error put Polanco in position to score on Josh Harrison's ensuing sacrifice fly against Henderson.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been around a player who can’t wait to get out of a town as bad as he can’t wait to get out of here,” Collins said about Walker's return to his hometown. “What he had to go through the last three days is a tribute to the kind of guy he is, too. He didn’t miss an autograph. He didn’t miss a media session. He didn’t miss any ceremonies. He shook hands. He waved. He deserves a good night’s rest.”

What's next: The Mets limp to Milwaukee. Bartolo Colon will open the four-game series on Thursday at 8:10 p.m. ET. Colon (4-3, 3.27 ERA) opposes right-hander Jimmy Nelson (5-4, 3.43).