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PIT@NYM: Pirates put up five runs in the seventh

NEW YORK -- Andrew McCutchen's grounder to lead off the seventh inning Wednesday evening seemed harmless enough.

The bounding ball headed straight at Mets first baseman Daniel Murphy seemed destined to make McCutchen the sixth straight batter retired by starter Chris Capuano in a game in which the Pirates had yet to put a runner in scoring position and trailed by two runs.

And even after Murphy bobbled the ball and made a throw that pulled Capuano off first base, it seemed the Pirates were far from a lock to pull off their second come-from-behind win against the Mets in as many nights.

Then Neil Walker reached on an infield single. Then Matt Diaz. Then Chris Snyder.

By the time the five-run inning was over, the New York faithful on hand at Citi Field had suffered through five infield singles and three defensive misplays, as a series of Pittsburgh paper cuts sliced the Mets into submission in a 9-3 Pirates victory.

"Whatever it takes to win a ballgame," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "At the end of the day, it was a very tight ballgame through six innings.

"You've got to like the way the guys responded late again."

Say this about the Pirates' role in that fateful seventh inning: At least they put the ball in play.

In each of the previous two games, the Mets' starting pitcher set a career high in strikeouts against the second-most K-friendly lineup in the National League. Wednesday, the Pirates struck out just four times, less than half their season average.

Once the ball was in play, it had a way of winding up precisely where the visitors wanted it, perhaps repayment from the baseball gods for Monday's loss, in which the Mets abused Bucs starter Charlie Morton with seeing-eye singles.

Walker, who had earlier misjudged a blooper that scored the Mets' first two runs in the fourth, redeemed himself by following McCutchen's infield single with a timely bunt for a base hit toward third base. A Diaz tapper loaded the bases for Snyder, whose ground ball to shortstop would have been a forceout had third baseman Willie Harris been at the base in time to receive Ruben Tejada's throw.

The Pirates tied the game on, yes, another Mets misplay, when Lyle Overbay's sinking line drive to center field glanced off Angel Pagan's glove.

"There's certainly a level of frustration at our lack of execution out there," Capuano said. "It's one thing to be close every game, but we're at the point now where close isn't good enough. We have to follow through with it."

Xavier Paul came off the bench to give the Pirates the lead with a line drive to right field before a fielder's choice and another infield single gave Pittsburgh its three-run cushion. All five runs in the inning were charged to Capuano.

"Contact's contact," Hurdle said. "A swinging bat's a dangerous bat at this level."

The Pirates were once again the beneficiaries of a strong performance from their starting pitcher. This time, it was Kevin Correia, whose eight wins put him alone atop the Major League leaderboard. Correia scattered six hits, all singles, while allowing two runs in six innings. He struck out four.

Though his shutout bid was foiled by Walker's misstep, Correia couldn't have any complaints about his defense after McCutchen made a magnificent play to save a run in the first inning.

With two outs and a runner on third, Jason Bay blasted a ball to the deepest part of Citi Field in right-center that would have assuredly gone for extra bases had it not been for the speed of McCutchen. The center fielder sprinted toward the wall while looking over his shoulder for the ball, then made a sliding grab in one fluid motion. He reached the wall at the tail end of his slide, right beside the 415-foot marker.

"First, I was seeing where [Diaz] was," McCutchen said. "Then I saw him looking at me, [and] then I knew I had to get on my horse. It hung up there, and I was able to slide and catch it."

"He's probably got 10 highlight-film plays already this year, and that one would have to rank at the top," Hurdle said. "A good read off the bat, a direct route and then lay out for the ball and come up with it at the base of the wall -- that's a Major League play."

After taking the lead, the at-times dormant Pirates offense erupted for another four runs the following inning without the use of any lightly hit grounders. The inning was highlighted by Brandon Wood, who had another productive pinch-hit at-bat by smacking an RBI double to left field off reliever Pedro Beato.

Wednesday's victory pushed the Pirates' road record to 17-14, matching their road win total from 2010 at the one-third mark of the season. Though it was not the prettiest of comebacks, those inside the Pittsburgh clubhouse certainly weren't complaining.

"It's just things going our way right there, and it was good to be able to have something like that go our way," McCutchen said. "Things go our way, that's it." Comments