PITTSBURGH - In one way, the Mets caught a break.
With Jonathon Niese on the mend from the shoulder woes that sent him to the disabled list, Carlos Torres has emerged as a viable replacement in the starting rotation. But that luxury also means that the Mets no longer have Torres in the bullpen, a problematic situation now that the team's relief corps has run out of gas.
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It's part of the reason that the Mets lost to the Pirates last night, 4-2. Torres did his job, holding the Pirates to just one run over five innings in his first major-league start in nearly three years. But the spent bullpen faltered, eventually squandering the 2-1 advantage the Mets enjoyed when Torres departed.
The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen hit a game-tying homer off reliever David Aardsma in the sixth inning before knocking in the go-ahead run with a single off the glove of third baseman David Wright in the seventh. Later in the inning, Josh Edgin, the next of the Mets' weary relievers, issued a pair of walks, including one to Russell Martin with the bases loaded to bring in the final run.
It didn't help that first baseman Ike Davis misplayed Travis Snider's one-out single to set up the rally.
"Obviously, I hope I make that the majority of the time," said Davis, who also failed to catch Wright's low throw after Starling Marte lined out to third and Wright's throw across the diamond was in time to double up Snider for the third out before a run had scored in the inning. Still, the loss ultimately fell to the bullpen, which has lurched toward the All-Star break.
"They're hanging, there's no doubt about it," manager Terry Collins said. To give the pen some relief, the Mets optioned struggling utilityman Jordany Valdespin following the game to make room for righthanded reliever Scott Atchison, who was activated from the disabled list following his rehab from a groin injury.
"That happens in baseball," said Valdespin, whose average plunged to .188 after striking out in the sixth.
The Mets send Dillon Gee to the mound today against Pirates rookie Gerrit Cole in hopes of avoiding the sweep to cap what had been an otherwise encouraging nine-game road trip. But, even with the loss yesterday, the Mets took some consolation from Torres' outing.
"He's going to be a good addition," said Collins, who will need Torres to stabilize the starting rotation until Niese returns.
In five innings, Torres allowed five hits and struck out five. He didn't allow a walk, an example of the improved command that has brought him from the rotation in Triple-A Las Vegas, to the Mets bullpen, and finally to the Mets' rotation.
Torres, 30, hadn't started a major-league game since Aug. 3, 2010, when he was with the White Sox.
Torres encountered trouble in the third inning on back-to-back hits by Clint Barmes and Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett. But he bounced back to retire Marte and Jose Tabata.
Torres had a 2-0 lead thanks to an RBI double by Kirk Nieuwenhuis in the fourth and an RBI infield single by Marlon Byrd in the fifth. The Pirates finally got to Torres in the bottom of the fifth on three consecutive hits, including Jordy Mercer's run-scoring single to make it 2-1.
In his 80th and final pitch of the night, Torres got Tabata to bounce into a double play.
"That fifth inning was a brutal one for sure," said Torres, who nonetheless pitched well enough to win.