Mets lose to Pirates after costly outfield error
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PITTSBURGH -- Kirk Nieuwenhuis, gliding over from centerfield, was calling for the ball. So was leftfielder Mike Baxter, who had gotten to the spot where the ball was coming down in left-centerfield.
Unfortunately for the Mets, neither gave way on the drive hit by the Pirates' Neil Walker leading off the bottom of the eighth in a tie game. As the outfielders bumped, the ball ticked off Nieuwenhuis' glove for a three-base error.
One batter later, Clint Barmes lofted a shallow fly ball to right. Lucas Duda's throw was on the first-base side of home and Walker slid in just ahead of the tag from Mike Nickeas for the eventual winning run as the Pirates beat the Mets, 5-4, Monday night at PNC Park.
Nieuwenhuis and Baxter had both just entered the game as pinch hitters in the top of the eighth. The Mets blew a 4-0 lead to the worst-hitting team in the National League to lose their third in four games.
"It's my fault," Nieuwenhuis said.
"One-hundred percent my fault," Baxter said.
Manager Terry Collins, who stood with arms folded after the miscue and was still in that position behind his desk after the game, talked to Baxter after the inning. That lets you know where he thought the blame belonged.
"I just wanted to make sure we get it straight so it doesn't happen again," Collins said. "I just told Bax, you've got to somehow realize that the centerfielder's coming. He said, 'I was calling it, calling it, I thought he was too far . . . ' Didn't matter. We've got to catch the baseball."
Of the centerfielder, Collins said, "If he calls, it's his."
The problem, according to both outfielders, is that neither heard the other. Hard to fathom when the announced crowd was 14,556, but apparently, it's louder out there than you think.
"I think any time the ball's in the air, people get excited," Baxter said. "And especially the later part of the game. I think as you see two players converging, people get more excited in case there's something that happened like that or a collision."
Baxter and Nieuwenhuis said the remedy is to take a peek at the other instead of following the ball the whole time. The good news is they'll get a chance to work on it Tuesday night, as Collins said they would begin the game in the same positions they ended Monday night's game.
That doesn't make it any easier to take.
"It's fundamental baseball," Baxter said. "Kirk has the right of way on that ball. I've got to get out of his way on that. That one hurts."
Said Nieuwenhuis: "That's tough to swallow."
It was also tough for the Mets because they took a 4-0 lead in the second inning with Johan Santana on the mound.
Ronny Cedeño, who was booed in his return after 2½ years with the Pirates, opened the scoring with an RBI double. Justin Turner, starting at second to give Daniel Murphy the day off, added a two-run single. David Wright had an RBI hit to make it 4-0.
Wright went 2-for-4 with a walk and an RBI and is batting .415. He also made two errors that did not lead to any runs.
The Pirates -- owners of a .217 team batting average, worst in the National League -- got to Santana for two runs in the fourth on consecutive doubles by Josh Harrison, Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez.
In the seventh, Barmes (.165 going into the game) led off with a bloop single to center. Catcher Michael McKenry (.182) followed with a tying two-run home run to left-center.