Mike Baxter smacked a game-winning, pinch-hit single in the bottom of the ninth inning as the New York Mets downed the Pittsburgh Pirates, 3-2, Thursday in the opener of a four-game set at Citi Field.
Baxter subbed for center fielder Juan Lagares, who made a game-saving catch in the top of the ninth, robbing Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen of an easy extra-base hit. Ike Davis had an RBI double and Marlon Byrd added a sacrifice fly for the Mets, who have won two of three.
"This guy comes off the bench with a plan, with something in his mind, and he executes it," New York manager Terry Collins said of Baxter. "It's truly amazing, because that is one tough job."
New York starter Dillon Gee pitched five-plus innings of one-run, five-hit ball and struck out three in the victory. Bobby Parnell (4-0) picked up the win after working around a leadoff single in the ninth.
Pedro Alvarez accounted for both Pittsburgh runs with a solo homer and a sacrifice fly, while starter Jeff Locke gave up just three hits over six frames to go along with three walks and three strike outs.
Jason Grilli (0-1) absorbed the loss, allowing Baxter's game-winning hit.
"You tip your hat," Grilli said of giving up the hit to Baxter. "Some nights you make good pitches, some nights you don't. Big league hitters and players make plays. That's what happens sometimes."
Byrd singled to lead off the ninth and Andrew Brown laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Byrd to second. Baxter then poked a single just past the second baseman into center to secure the win.
In the top of the ninth, Parnell received some help from Lagares with two outs. With a runner on first, McCutchen drilled a fly ball to right-center and Lagares backed up to the warning track before leaping up and grabbing a potential base-clearing hit for an out, helping the Mets escape the inning.
LaTroy Hawkins looked to help the hosts hold onto their 2-1 lead in the eighth, but Alvarez brought the Pirates back as he crushed a moon-shot solo homer to right with one down to tie the game at 2-2.
Pittsburgh's Tony Watson retired two of the first three batters he faced in the seventh -- only allowing Brown's single -- but Davis ripped a double into the right-center gap scoring Brown from first to give the Mets a 2-1 advantage.
After Gee managed to stifle the Pirates through the first five innings, the righty ran into trouble in the sixth.
McCutchen and Garrett Jones smacked consecutive singles before Gee plunked Russell Martin to load the bases. It was the last batter he faced, as Brandon Lyon filled in on the hill.
The first batter Lyon faced, Alvarez, tied the game at 1-1 with a sacrifice fly to center.
The Mets opened up the scoring in the second. John Buck led off with a single and advanced to third as Justin Turner hit a single to left-center, but was thrown out attempting to reach second by McCutchen. Byrd followed with a sacrifice fly to right to give the home team a 1-0 lead.
Pittsburgh has lost six of its last nine games ... The Mets have just 23 RBI in their last 14 games versus left-handed starters ... Locke fell to 0-2 in his career at Citi Field ... Baxter had the game-winning hit in Tuesday's 1-0 victory over the White Sox .... The Mets' last three home victories have come in game-winning fashion.