Mets return favor, overcome six-run deficit to defeat Pirates, avoid sweep

MLB: New York Mets at Pittsburgh Pirates
Jul 18, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Mets pinch hitter Travis Blamkenhorn (73) celebrates his three run home run by left fielder Dominic Smith (2) and catcher Tomas Nido (3) against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fourth inning at PNC Park. It was the first career MLB home run for Blankenhorn.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets wrenched a silver lining out of a brutal series in Pittsburgh, overcoming a 6-0 first-inning deficit to defeat the Pirates 7-6 on Sunday afternoon — avoiding an embarrassing sweep after a first-inning meltdown.

Michael Conforto, who had been 5-for-his-last-34 and hitless in three previous at-bats, provided a game-winning two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth off Richard Rodriguez after the Mets clawed back to within one entering the final frame, driving in Dominic Smith, who had three hits on the afternoon.

His unlikely heroics salvaged a heinous weekend at PNC Park, which was perfectly embodied by what happened in the first inning against the second-worst team in the National League. Having already allowed three runs before loading the bases, Mets starter Taijuan Walker knocked a 30-foot dribbler by Kevin Newman up the third-base line that he thought was foul toward the Pirates dugout.

After home-plate umpire Jeremy Riggs called the ball fair, Walker opted to argue with the call rather than pursue the ball while the bases cleared and Newman moved to second base to make it a 6-0 game.

Manager Luis Rojas bounded out of the Mets dugout and was swiftly ejected in a manic display of rage; the problem was that the ball was on the chalk, clearly making it a fair ball.

The display was more Little League than Major Leagues, but it was par for the course for a Mets team that blew a 6-0 lead on Saturday night in the final two innings.

Walker never got out of the first as he filled in for Jacob deGrom, who was placed on the injured list earlier Sunday due to forearm tightness — a less than triumphant return from his one-inning appearance at the All-Star Game.

Drew Smith held the Pirates in check for 2.2 innings as the Mets got on the board through an RBI single from Dom Smith in the third.

They got even closer when the reliever Smith was pinch-hit for by Travis Blankenhorn, who sent a three-run shot into the right-center-field stands for his first career home run while bringing the Mets within two.

It chased Pirates starter, JT Brubaker, out of the game, who couldn’t get through the fourth inning despite being paced with a six-un lead.

Dom Smith drew the Mets to within one in the sixth inning with a two-out double down the right-field line — his second of three hits on Sunday — scoring Jeff McNeil from first. McNeil was initially stopped at third, but second baseman Adam Frazier bobbled the relay throw, taking the RBI away from Smith.

The Pirates were poised to re-extend their lead in the bottom half of the sixth after the usually-reliable Aaron Loup loaded the bases with no outs, but the southpaw side-armer struck out the side to get out of the massive jam unscathed while keeping the Mets in it. 

Trevor May was able to see the win out in the ninth, getting around two of the Mets’ largest demons of the series in John Nogowski and Jacob Stallings — the latter who hit a game-winning, walk-off grand slam off Edwin Diaz on Saturday night. 

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