PITTSBURGH — Key to the Mets’ 5-1 win over the Pirates on Saturday: Kodai Senga bucked one of his most extreme trends.
He provided a rare dominant road start, the quality of outing he mostly has contributed at Citi Field. Across seven innings, he scattered two hits and four walks, allowing an unearned run. He struck out six.
“The game is a lot easier,” manager Buck Showalter said, “when you get those types of starts.”
In his first season in the majors, Senga has been excellent in home games, posting a 1.93 ERA in a half-dozen starts. With this strong performance, his road ERA is down to 4.78 in another six appearances.
That was much better than his previous outing, a four-inning, 2 2/3-inning mess against the Blue Jays last Sunday.
“Not an ideal start last time,” Senga said through an interpreter. “With the team being on a bit of a slump, I was determined to stop the [seven-game] losing streak.”
Showalter said: “I’ve been watching him out of the corner of my eye since his last start. He was kind of on a mission today, I thought.”
What Showalter liked most was Senga’s cutter, which he used when behind in the count — a frequent occasion early in the game — so that he “didn’t have to give in completely,” as Showalter put it.
Senga clamped down in the biggest moments, stranding six runners on base and holding Pittsburgh (33-30) to 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. He benefited from Brandon Nimmo’s pair of highlight-reel catches but had to work around three defensive errors from infielders.
“Errors happen, people make mistakes,” Senga said. “I gave up more walks than there were errors in the game. After a play like that, I go back on the mound and I’m already moving on to the next guy.”
So long for now
Another batch of roster moves Saturday yielded the potential end of a long career: The Mets designated Tommy Hunter for assignment.
Hunter, 36, has played 16 seasons in the majors, including parts of three with the Mets. He was a favorite of Showalter’s, dating to their days together in Baltimore, and the team valued him as a jovial, veteran clubhouse presence.
But in need of fresh relievers, the Mets decided they couldn’t afford to keep Hunter, who had a 6.85 ERA in mostly mop-up duty.
Showalter called Hunter early Saturday to tell him about the move so that he didn’t have to go to the ballpark. He went anyway.
“Tommy wanted to come by and say bye to everybody,” Showalter said. “It’s never goodbye. It’s see you later. Tommy has a way of cropping up in everybody’s lives. He’s a great teammate. It’s some of the fallout of us not doing some things in a lot of area. We could’ve kept it from happening.
“When the smoke clears, Tommy will end up with a place in baseball. People really like having his knowledge around. And his personality.”
The Mets also demoted lefthander Zach Muckenhirn to Triple-A Syracuse. They called up lefthander Josh Walker and righthander John Curtiss.
Brett Baty clipped his shin on a swing in his first at-bat. He limped back to the dugout but was fine for the rest of the game . . . Brooks Raley (stomach virus) was unavailable . . . The Mets organized a postgame outing to the Roberto Clemente Museum.