NEW YORK (AP) — Wilmer Difo’s tiebreaking single in the ninth inning capped Pittsburgh’s biggest comeback of the season, and the Pirates rallied from an early five-run deficit to beat the New York Mets 6-5 Sunday.
“That’s a helluva way to end the first half,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “We go down 5-0 and they battled their (rear ends) off for the rest of the game. It was really cool to see.”
The NL East-leading Mets — atop their division at the All-Star Break for the first time since 2007 — jumped out to a 5-0 lead against Chase De Jong in the first on a two-run homer by Francisco Lindor and a three-run shot by Michael Conforto.
The Pirates began inching back via the long ball in the fifth, when Rodolfo Castro and Michael Perez hit back-to-back solo home runs.
Castro hit a two-run homer in the sixth — per Elias, he is the first player since Kyle Higashioka in 2018 to homer for each of his first three big league hits — and helped keep the Pirates within a run by spearing a line drive by Brandon Nimmo in the seventh and firing to first to double up Luis Guillorme.
“It’s a huge dream come true and to see the dream flourish even more and get even deeper — oh my gosh, I feel amazing,” a grinning Castro said through an interpreter.
Closer Edwin Diaz, the fifth pitcher used by the Mets, wriggled out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth to preserve a 5-4 lead. Diaz (3-3) gave up a one-out double to Kevin Newman in the ninth before retiring Bryan Reynolds on a groundout.
But John Nogowski hit an RBI single — his 14th hit in 28 at-bats since joining the Pirates on Monday, the most by a Pittsburgh player in his first seven games with the team since at least 1901 — and Difo followed with his run-scoring hit down the third base line.
David Bednar (2-1) allowed two hits in a scoreless eighth. Richard Rodriguez worked around a leadoff single by Nimmo in the ninth to earn his 12th save.
“Twenty-seven outs, a lot can happen,” Nogowski said. “Real easy to kind of roll over there, last game before the break, you’ve got an unbelievable closer on the mound, great stuff. But I don’t think that crossed any of our minds. Great at-bats.”
Difo and Adam Frazier had three hits for the Pirates, who are in last place in the NL Central at the All-Star Break for the first time since 2010.
De Jong allowed five runs and four hits and three walks with three strikeouts in five innings. He retired 14 of the final 16 batters he faced.
The Mets headed into the All-Star break after blowing their biggest lead of a season in a loss.
“All losses are tough,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “We had the 5-0 lead and we didn’t get much going afterward.”
Lindor, who flied out to end the game, had three hits with a walk. He is batting .333 with two homers, 10 RBIs and a .500 on-base percentage since July 1. He entered the month hitting .215 with nine homers, 26 RBIs and a .301 on-base percentage.
Aaron Loup served as New York’s opener and tossed two scoreless innings in the first start of his 10-year big league career. Jerad Eickhoff followed by giving up two runs and six hits over 2 2/3 innings. Jeurys Familia, Miguel Castro and Diaz combined to allow four runs, seven hits and three walks in four innings.
Rojas said usual late-inning options Seth Lugo and Trevor May were unavailable after pitching in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader.
“We were short on pitching,” Rojas said. “Some guys had to come in and try to do the inning-plus and could not quite do it.”
Both teams returned their 27th players from Saturday’s doubleheader — RHP Geoff Hartlieb for the Mets and RHP Max Kranick for the Pirates — to their Triple-A affiliates. In addition, New York optioned RHP Nick Tropeano to Syracuse to make room for RHP Jerad Eickhoff and created a spot on the 40-man roster for Eickhoff by designating for assignment RHP Stephen Tarpley.
LOUP THERE HE IS
The start for Loup was his first since he was in Class A with the Toronto Blue Jays organization in 2010. His 436 appearances without a start entering Sunday were the 19th-most among active pitchers.
Pirates: LHP Steven Brault (left lat) tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings for Class A Bradenton in his first rehab appearance. Brault has yet to pitch for the Pirates this season.
Mets: LHP David Peterson (right side) threw for the first time since he was injured June 30.
After the All-Star Break, the Mets and Pirates oppose each other again, this time in Pittsburgh, for a three-game series scheduled to begin Friday.
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