Pedro helps surging Mets win for ninth time in 12 games

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- On a day when he got bad news about his closer and watched his bullpen struggle again, New York Mets manager Jerry Manuel preferred to talk about something positive.

"Pedro was outstanding tonight," he said.

Pedro Martinez pitched seven innings for the first time this season, and Jose Reyes and Ramon Castro homered to lead the surging Mets past the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-4 Saturday night.

Reyes and Castro each finished with two hits and two RBIs for the Mets, who have won five straight and nine of 12. New York, which is a season-best 11 games over .500, entered the day leading the NL East by one game over Philadelphia.

Martinez (4-3) allowed one run, eight hits and struck out four in his 13th start of the season. Previously, his longest outing was 6 1/3 innings in a loss to San Diego on Aug. 6.

"Pedro kept them off-balance and got big outs when he needed to," Manuel said. "He pitched extremely well for us. It was very impressive. We need that type of effort going forward."

The oft-injured right-hander, who won for the first time since beating the Phillies on July 7, has gone seven innings just twice in his past 22 starts dating to 2006.

"I felt pretty good," Martinez said. "It's starting to come along. The last two outings, I've been making adjustments to get where I needed to be. I had command of the fastball, especially getting ahead, and the changeup. They kept swinging at it, and that made it easier for me."

The three-time Cy Young Award winner threw 95 pitches, 64 for strikes.

"That was great to see," Reyes said.

Martinez's outing was nearly wasted by the Mets' shaky bullpen.

The Pirates scored three times in the ninth against rusty rookie Eddie Kunz, who hadn't pitched since Sunday. Pedro Feliciano entered with runners on first and second with one out. He earned his second save after getting Ryan Doumit to fly out and Adam LaRoche to ground out.

"I feel really good about this win. We've just got to close the game out," Manuel said. "We've got to get through the end of the game."

Before the game, New York got disappointing news when injured closer Billy Wagner felt discomfort in his pitching elbow following a simulated game.

The All-Star reliever, sidelined with a strained left forearm, won't come off the disabled list as expected Monday and instead will return to New York on Sunday for further evaluation.

One night after the Mets held on for a 2-1 victory, they provided plenty of offense for Martinez, who shut down Pittsburgh for six innings on Monday only to have his bullpen blow a 5-1 lead in a 7-5 New York loss.

Reyes led off the game with a home run to left field against Zach Duke (4-11) and added an RBI triple in the second.

Carlos Beltran and Fernando Tatis had RBIs as part of a three-run first, and Castro's two-run homer in the sixth made it 6-0. Pinch-hitter Daniel Murphy drew a bases-loaded walk in the eighth.

"It was a tough first inning," Duke said. "I left a fastball up to Reyes, and he made me pay for it."

Duke, who retired 13 of 14 batters during one stretch, allowed six runs and nine hits in six innings. The left-hander, winless in 12 starts, dropped to 0-5 with a 7.97 ERA in the second half.

"He was missing his spots early," Pittsburgh manager John Russell said. "He took two to three innings to get into a rhythm. He can't do that. When that happens, the damage is already done."

Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez had three hits apiece, and Andy LaRoche homered for the Pirates, who have lost three straight.

Each starter had at least one hit for the Pirates, who had a runner on base in every inning.

"It was nice to see us push it in the ninth," Russell said. "We didn't quit."

Game notes
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington credited team owner Bob Nutting with providing the financial backing to sign No. 2 overall pick Pedro Alvarez. The Vanderbilt slugger received a franchise-record $6 million signing bonus. "We were given the resources to do what we needed to," Huntington said Saturday. "Because of that, we sit here today a much deeper and stronger organization." ... Reyes' leadoff homer was the 12th of his career, extending his team record. His triple was his major league-leading 14th and the 66th of his career, also a club record. ... The Mets have scored 96 first-inning runs. ... Pittsburgh drew 37,506, its second consecutive sellout.