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Morton hit hard as Pirates fall to Mets 8-1

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Mets rookie pitcher Dillon Gee remained undefeated, Jose Reyes homered among his three hits and the New York Mets won for the fifth time in six games, 8-1 over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.

On a day when Chris Snyder underwent potentially season-ending back surgery and Evan Meek hit the DL for the second time this year with shoulder tendinitis, the Pirates shot themselves in the foot versus the Mets at PNC Park.

Charlie Morton didn't have his typically stellar sinker and the Pirates committed two errors, adding insult to the team's injury woes in an 8-1 drubbing Friday night in front of a paid crowd of 24,653. Three-hit nights from Jose Reyes and Josh Thole and two RBI games from Justin Turner and Lucas Duda provided ample support for Mets rookie Dillon Gee, who allowed just one run in eight innings.

"Great night, great crowd, bad result," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

Laboring through 81 pitches in four-plus frames against a Mets lineup featuring six left-handed hitters, Morton was throttled for nine hits and seven runs (six earned) while striking out and walking one batter apiece. Morton threw just 45 of his pitches for strikes (56 percent).

"The command wasn't really there from the start," Hurdle said. "He had more side run to his ball than he did sink tonight. None of the secondary pitches really came into play."

Gee became the first rookie starter to begin the season 7-0 since Jered Weaver achieved the feat with the Angels back in 2006. Gee also vanquished Morton and the Pirates (30-32) on May 30 at Citi Field.

While Morton (6-3) struggled to find home plate, Gee whiffed five Pirates and walked none, giving up eight hits. Seventy-three of his 104 pitches were strikes (70 percent).

"[Gee]'s just shaving the outer edge and keeping the ball down," Hurdle said. "The slider came more into play against the right-handers, and the left-handers he pitched tight. He stayed to his glove side. Left-handers were getting the changeup and some back foot sliders."

"He's got a sneaky fastball and a short arm," Neil Walker said. "We've had some trouble with him last time and this time. He's not 7-0 for any old reason."

Morton's Friday start marked the first time in 2011 that he failed to last at least five innings. Morton pitched at least six innings in nine of his first 11 starts.  

The Pirates' righty tossed 60 sinkers to New York (31-32). Thirty-three of them, or 55 percent, were strikes. Entering play Friday, Morton had thrown his sinker for a strike 67 percent of the time this season.

"Mechanically my timing was bad," Morton said. "I wasn't saying back. I just didn't have it. The command wasn't there."

Morton didn't use his secondary stuff much, throwing just a handful of breaking balls and changeups and missing with most of them.

"Tonight my changeup was nowhere to be found," Morton said. "I threw it over some guy's head and I hit Turner with a curveball."

Morton retired lead-off hitter Reyes in the first inning, but he then hit Turner with an 0-2 breaker, walked Carlos Beltran and fell behind 3-and-1 to Daniel Murphy.

Murphy chopped a sinker to shortstop. Ronny Cedeno booted the ball, however, ending his 44-game errorless streak at the position and loading the bases for the Mets. New York plated the game's first run on an Angel Pagan groundout to first base, but Morton avoided further damage when Duda grounded out to second base.

Pittsburgh tied the game with three straight hits off Mets' rookie starter Dillon Gee. Jose Tabata singled to center field, Josh Harrison reached on a bunt that hugged the third base line and Andrew McCutchen hit a sharp ground ball through the infield to score Tabata.

Gee then escaped a crooked-numbered inning with quick reflexes. Walker smoked a grounder back to the pitcher's mound that Gee snagged with a spinning, behind-the-back grab, tossing to third base to get the lead base runner Harrison. Lyle Overbay flied out to center field.

"What are you gonna do when a guy does a magic trick out there?" Walker said.

The Mets broke the game open in the top of the fourth inning, mauling Morton for five runs and stringing together four consecutive hits to start the frame.

Pagan doubled to deep left field. Duda followed with a run-scoring single to center, then advanced to second base on the throw home and jogged into third base when McCutchen's toss home sailed over catcher Dusty Brown's head.

Thole singled to right field, plating Duda, and Tejada hit a single to right in the next at-bat.

The Bucs seemingly caught a break when Gee's bunt toward first base allowed a charging Overbay to throw out Thole at third. But Overbay then appeared to get screened by Gee when Reyes smacked a ground ball toward first base. The ball caromed off Overbay's glove and rolled toward second base, allowing Reyes to beat out Walker's throw to Morton at first and loading the bases.

Turner then hit a 3-2 sinker to center field that scored Tejada and Gee and advanced Reyes to third base. A Carlos Beltran sac fly gave the Mets their fifth run of the disastrous inning.

Hurdle gave Morton the hook and brought in Daniel McCutchen after Pagan tripled to begin the top of the fifth inning.

New York added another run later in the inning on a Duda sac fly. In the sixth, Reyes launched a middle-of-the-plate changeup from McCutchen over the Clemente Wall to make it 8-1 Mets"[Morton] is definitely still a work in progress all across the board," Hurdle said.

Still, Hurdle noted just how far Morton has progressed this season. At this point in 2010, he was getting rocked during his first few starts at Indianapolis after a demotion to Triple-A.

"I'd like to bring to your attention some of the articles that were written and the thoughts that were commented on last year and all winter long, and now the discussions we're having this year.

"The league is counter-punching right now, and he's going to have to find a way to counterpunch back against the lefthanders," Hurdle continued. "He's got the package to do it, but today the package wasn't real crisp to anybody."

"It was just a game," Morton said. "I'm going to move on."

MEEK BACK ON DL; SNYDER UNDERGOES BACK SURGERY
Prior to Friday's game, the Pirates placed RHP Evan Meek on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis and purchased the contract of RHP Tim Wood from Triple-A Indianapolis. Pittsburgh made room on the 40-man roster for Wood by transferring C Chris Snyder, who underwent back surgery Friday, to the 60-day disabled list.

Meek, expected to meet with Dr. James Andrews on Monday, already served a DL stint with shoulder tendinitis earlier this season. He also battled a sore calf and a viral infection in spring training.

The 28-year-old has lacked the top-shelf velocity that he showed during his All-Star 2010 season. He threw his fastball at an average of 95.1 MPH last year. In 2011, he's averaging 93.3 MPH. Since Meek was activated from the DL on May 22, his fastball has averaged just 91.1 MPH.

Wood, 28, served as the Indians' closer while posting a 24-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 2.96 ERA in 24.1 innings pitched. Originally a 44th round pick by the Florida Marlins in the 2002 MLB Draft, Wood signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals this past offseason but was released on March 31. The Pirates signed him later that day.

Wood pitched 50 innings in the major leagues with the Marlins over the 2009 and 2010 seasons, striking out 26 and walking 25 with a 4.32 ERA.

Snyder injured his lower back sliding into second base during Wednesday's game and had successful back surgery Friday. Snyder was placed on the DL earlier this season with lower back tightness, and he underwent back surgery while with the Diamondbacks in 2009. Now that he is on 60-day DL, Snyder won't be eligible to return to action until mid-August at the earliest.

With Snyder joining Ryan Doumit (ankle) on the DL and Jason Jaramillo nursing a sore elbow at Triple-A Indianapolis, the Pirates are down to Dusty Brown and Wyatt Toregas at catcher. Brown and Toregas have a combined 40 games of major league experience.

Both Brown, a former Red Sox farmhand, and Toregas, an erstwhile Cleveland Indians prospect, signed minor league contracts with the Pirates over the winter. Brown has a career .258 batting average, .343 on-base percentage and a .407 slugging percentage at the Triple-A level. Toregas is a .235/.301/.355 career Triple-A hitter.

TIM WOOD MAKES BUCS DEBUT
Tim Wood made his Pirates debut Friday night, pitching a scoreless eighth inning while walking one batter. The right-hander averaged 95 MPH with his fastball, topping out at 96, while also featuring a high-80s slider and changeup. Wood threw 11 of his 18 pitches for strikes.

"He had a good first outing," Hurdle said. "The arm plays big. He's got a power slider at times and we feel confident with what he has down there [at Triple-A Indianapolis]. He's going to be able to help us."

BAY BACK IN THE 'BURGH, BUT NOT THE LINEUP
Left fielder Jason Bay returned to PNC Park Friday for the first time since the July 31, 2008, trade that sent him to the Red Sox. But Bay, who signed a four-year deal with the Mets prior to the 2010 season and missed the club's series at PNC Park last August while recovering from a concussion, wasn't in the lineup. Mets manager Terry Collins sat Bay, mired in an 0-for-23 slump, for a second consecutive game. The 32-year-old is hitting just .207 with a .307 on-base percentage and a .279 slugging percentage in 2011.

Bay's free agent deal has been a disaster for the Mets thus far. In Queens, Bay has been worth 1.3 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). WAR measures a player's total offensive, defensive and base running value compared to the type of player typically available on the waiver wire. One WAR generally costs between $4 million and $5 million on the free agent market. Bay has made about $14.7 million in salary since the beginning of 2010, so the Mets have paid him three to four times what his on-field production has been worth.

The Mets will pay Bay lavishly for years to come, too. He'll make about $9.9 million for the rest of the 2011 season, and he's due $16 million in both 2012 and 2013. Bay also has a $17 million option for 2014 that vests if he reaches 600 plate appearances in 2013 or has 500 plate appearances in both 2012 and 2013.

DUDA RECALLED, STARTS FOR BAY
Lucas Duda, recalled from Triple-A Buffalo prior to Friday's game, started in left field in Bay's place. The 6-foot-4, 225 pound lefty batter has a .302/.408/.579 line at Triple-A this season. He took the roster spot opened up when New York designated OF/1B Nick Evans for assignment after Thursday night's game.

ON DECK
RHP R.A. Dickey (3-6, 4.04 ERA) and RHP James McDonald (3-4, 4.97 ERA), who faced off May 31 at Citi Field, are set for a rematch Saturday night at PNC Park. Both pitched well at Citi Field, though McDonald (6 IP, 1 ER, 5 K) got a no-decision and Dickey took the loss despite striking out a career-high 10 batters and surrendering three runs in 7.2 innings pitched.

McDonald's last start was a wild one -- he walked five hitters, tossed two wild pitches and gave up three runs in four-plus innings versus the Phillies on June 5.

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