The Mets redecorated their lineup before the non-waiver trade deadline with several nice pieces, but the improvement wasn't visible in the series opener against the Pirates Friday night at Citi Field and for the first six innings Saturday night.
At that point, Charlie Morton was working on a two-hit shutout. Then the Mets staged a stirring rally, tying the score with three runs in the seventh. The two contenders went to extra innings for the second straight game. And Pittsburgh again claimed the win, 5-3 in 14 innings.
Francisco Cervelli led off the 14th with a double off Sean Gilmartin and first baseman Daniel Murphy made a bad throw to third as he attempted to cut down Cervelli, putting runners at the corners with none out. Chris Stewart dumped a pinch-hit single into center for the lead and Sean Rodriguez's bloop single made it 5-3.
In the Mets' seventh, Juan Uribe hit a solo homer and Michael Conforto added a two-run shot to tie it at 3-3. Jon Niese worked six innings and allowed three runs and five hits, good for his 12th quality start in the last 13 outings.
It was the 50th anniversary of The Beatles belting out their hits in front of 55,600 at what then was Shea Stadium and now is the parking lot at Citi Field. Shea was energized that night, and now the electricity again was running at full capacity in a somewhat smaller ballpark for Game 2 of a big series.
The Pirates swept the Mets out of Pittsburgh in May, but this is a different Mets team, replete with those pre-deadline additions that make the lineup longer and stronger.
The Mets belted out a few hits of their own Saturday night, stirring the 38,878 in the house by staging a homer-fueled comeback.
Yoenis Cespedes helped save the night for the Mets before it went into extra innings, throwing out Rodriguez as he tried to stretch a double into a triple, firing a one-hop strike from deep left-center for the second out in the ninth.
After winning all three games in Pittsburgh by a combined count of 21-4, the Pirates took Friday night's game in 10 innings, 3-2. They hold the first wild card at the moment and are looking for a third straight postseason appearance.
"They've done a good job of assembling a nice team," Terry Collins said before the game. "They've got good starting pitching. Their bullpen is outstanding. And [manager Clint Hurdle] does a great job of mixing and matching.
"And there's one thing about when you've won in the past: You know what it takes. When things in the beginning of the year weren't going good for them, they just kept playing and here they are today. So we knew coming in this was going to be a fight."
The Mets were losing the fight heading into the bottom of the seventh, trailing 3-0 on all the scorecards. Morton had held them to two singles by Cespedes.
But Uribe opened the inning by sending a drive over the fence in left-center. Kelly Johnson struck out, but Travis d'Arnaud reached on a throwing error by third baseman Aramis Ramirez.
Conforto, summoned from Double-A the same day (July 24) that Uribe and Johnson were acquired from the Braves, then pulled a two-run shot over the rightfield fence. The crowd erupted. The score was tied.
With two outs in the first, Niese just missed on a full-count pitch to Andrew McCutchen, according to plate umpire Bob Davidson. Ramirez deposited the next pitch over the leftfield fence for a quick 2-0 lead.
Gregory Polanco led off the third with a drive that would have landed in the second deck in right if the foul pole hadn't gotten in the way. That made it 3-0.