Pirates drop to .500 after 6-4 loss

Pittsburgh Pirates' Jung Ho Kang (27), of South Korea, hits into a double play during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets Thursday, June 16, 2016, in New York. (AP)

NEW YORK (AP) – Neil Walker and Michael Conforto gave the Mets an immediate jolt in their return from nagging injuries, and Bartolo Colon pitched New York to a 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday night.

Curtis Granderson set a Mets record for leadoff homers, while Walker also went deep and had three RBIs against his former team after missing the previous three games with a sore lower back.

Conforto, who hadn’t started since Saturday, landed right on his ailing left wrist when he saved a run with a sensational diving catch in the first inning. Showing no ill effects, the left fielder followed Walker’s two-run shot in the third inning with a home run of his own to snap a 5-for-54 slump.

Colon (6-3) doubled and scored earlier in the inning on Yoenis Cespedes’ deep sacrifice fly, drawing a giddy roar from the crowd of 33,052 following his jaunt around the bases.

The beefy right-hander took a four-hit shutout into the eighth and won his third consecutive decision, a streak that began on the eve of his 43rd birthday last month. He allowed two runs and seven hits in 7 2/3 innings, striking out eight and walking none.

All three Mets homers came off Juan Nicasio (5-6), who gave up six runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings as the Pirates (33-33) fell back to .500 with their seventh loss in eight games.

Andrew McCutchen homered in the ninth and had three hits for the Pirates, ending an 0-for-18 drought that was the longest hitless stretch of his career. Matt Joyce connected for his 100th career home run.

Trailing 6-0, the Pirates chased Colon in the eighth and rallied for four runs in the final two innings. But the comeback attempt fell short when slumping Erik Kratz flied out with a runner on third to end it.

Jeurys Familia got three outs for his major league-leading 22nd save. He has converted a club-record 38 regular-season chances in a row dating to last August – though he did blow a four-run lead in the ninth inning of a game this year.

Granderson hit a long drive to right-center in the first for his 41st career leadoff homer and 17th with the Mets, breaking a tie with Jose Reyes for the franchise mark.

After losing 10 of 11 to Pittsburgh, the Mets took the final two matchups in this three-game set between 2015 playoff teams. They finished 3-3 in the season series after going 0-6 last year.


Pirates: LF Starling Marte sat out as the medical staff tried to reduce swelling on his face. Marte exited Wednesday night’s game after diving for Yoenis Cespedes’ single – the ball bounced in front of Marte and hit him under his left eye. “He’s doing better,” manager Clint Hurdle said. … Pittsburgh C Chris Stewart, banged up in several spots on his body, was rested for the second consecutive night.


Pirates: A quick turnaround, with LHP Francisco Liriano (4-6, 4.92 ERA) starting this afternoon at Wrigley Field in the opener of a three-game series against the major league-leading Cubs. RHP Jake Arrieta (10-1, 1.86) goes for Chicago. Liriano has lost three straight starts.