David Wright now stands alone on top of the Mets’ hits list and his goal to end the 2012 season on a high note is going pretty well so far.
In the penultimate game at Citi Field this season, the Mets got seven shutout innings from Jeremy Hefner and their suddenly lively offense produced six runs to back him in a 6-0 win. The Mets have now won five of their last six games and have just seven left in the season.
After failing to record an out in his last start, Hefner bounced back strongly and allowed just three hits over seven scoreless. He walked only one while striking out seven, his best start of the season. Hefner was so good that the Pirates only put one runner in scoring position all night.
While the Pirates offense was scuffling, the Mets took another opportunity to bust out against an inexperienced Pittsburgh starter. They got to Pirates rookie Jeff Locke for four runs in the third inning — their ninth multi-run inning in their last six games, after struggling so mightily to score at home for most of the second half.
Ruben Tejada got it started with a one-out single to left and was nearly picked off with Daniel Murphy at the plate. But the throw from Pirates first baseman Garrett Jones hit Tejada in the back and skipped into left as Ruben slid into second safely. Murphy followed with a single to center that ricocheted off Andrew McCutchen’s glove and allowed Tejada to score easily with the first run of the game.
Then it was Wright’s turn and the third baseman became the team’s hits leader in truly Metsian fashion. Wright got jammed by a 1-0 pitch from Locke and dribbled one up the third base line. Pedro Alvarez charged and threw quickly, but his throw short-hopped the first baseman and skipped into foul territory. The third miscue of the inning for Pittsburgh allowed Murphy to come all the way around from first with the second run.
Wright, who ended up at second after the throw, was awarded a single, which pushed him passed Ed Kranepool for first on the Mets hit list with 1,419. Wright came around with the third run on a Scott Hairston double down the left field line and Kelly Shoppach made it 4-0 with a single to center that scored Hairston.
The Mets tacked on a run in the fourth when Tejada knocked in Andres Torres with a single and another in the sixth when another Tejada single brought Torres across with the sixth Mets run. Ruben had four hits in the game and is hitting .438 over his current eight-game hitting streak.
The rest of the night belonged to Hefner, who kept the Pirates off balance all night by mixing up his fastball and changeup, with a few nice curves and sliders thrown in on occasion. The seven strikeouts matched a career-high that Hefner had touched on two occasions earlier this year. When he wasn’t striking guys out, Hefner was using the high fastball to get some flyballs into the spacious Citi Field outfield. Eleven of the 14 outs recorded behind Hefner were in the air.
After Hefner was Jeurys Familia relieved and tossed two scoreless innings to close out the shutout. Familia flashed a 97 MPH fastball and though he got a little wild with it in the ninth, walking the leadoff man on four pitches, he adjusted well and induced a double play grounder to erase the walk. He then got the always tough McCutchen to fly out weakly to right for the final out.
Game Ball: That goes to Hefner, who pitched as many scoreless innings tonight as runs he allowed in his last outing against the Phillies. It was great to see from a guy who was clearly shaken up by how poorly he pitched last week.
Random Stache Moment: On a night went hits were at the center of the conversation, five Mets players had at least two hits and it was a 14-hit night for the offense. Tejada led the way with four, Torres had three and Wright, Murphy and Hairston had two hits each in the win.
Turning Point: With one out in the third, the Pirates has Tejada dead to rights in a rundown between first and second, but the poor throw by Garrett Jones into Tejada’s back opened a door for the Mets, giving them a runner on second with one out instead of none on with two outs. They took advantage with a four-run inning to build an insurmountable lead.
Next Up: The Mets play their final home game of the season tomorrow afternoon as R.A. Dickey (19-6, 2.66 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 209 K) takes the hill seeking his 20th win of the season. Dickey will be opposed by veteran Kevin Correia (11-10, 4.11 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 82 K). First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. and the game can be seen on SNY or heard, as always on WFAN 660 AM.