PITTSBURGH -- Moises Alou couldn't get a hit with two runners on that would have put the New York Mets in the lead. The Pittsburgh Pirates should have known better than to give him another such opportunity.
Alou's two-run single in the eighth inning put New York ahead, and the Mets finally figured out how to win in Pittsburgh by rallying past the Pirates 5-4 on Tuesday night.
Carlos Beltran, who doubled to set up the two-run eighth, hit a solo homer and drove in two runs as the Mets won in PNC Park for only the second time in nine games. The Mets were swept by the last-place Pirates in a three-game series last September when they needed to win only once to clinch the NL East.
With the score tied at 3, David Wright singled and Beltran doubled against reliever Salomon Torres (1-4), who faced only the two batters. Damaso Marte came on to walk Carlos Delgado to load the bases after getting two quick strikes on him. The 41-year-old Alou, who struck out with two runners on in his previous at-bat in the sixth, hit a line-drive single to center against Shawn Chacon that made it 5-3.
"He's as clutch a performer as there is late in a game," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said.
Actually, Alou was only 8-for-40 (.200) with runners in scoring position before his key at-bat in the eighth, but he was confident he would succeed. Alou is 9-for-26 (.346) in his last six games, and he was coming off a two-homer game Sunday against Florida.
"All we needed was a sacrifice fly and it made me relax a little bit, and I got a good pitch to hit," Alou said.
More than 20 years ago, the Pirates drafted Barry Bonds and Moises Alou in successive years, and both are still producing against them while in their 40s. The 43-year-old Bonds was 6-for-10 with three homers against them this season.
Alou missed more than two months with a quadriceps injury before returning late last month, and Delgado said the Mets are a better team when he's playing.
"He brings a lot," Delgado said. "He's a professional bat in the middle of the lineup, and he gives us another dimension because he's a right-handed bat in a predominantly left-handed offense. He knows how to hit."
The Pirates led 2-0 in the first and 3-2 in the fourth following Nate McLouth's solo homer, but had only one more threat after that. Pinch-hitter Xavier Nady's groundout drove in a run against Jorge Sosa (9-6) in the eighth, but Scott Schoeneweis got pinch-hitter Josh Phelps on a long fly to right that Lastings Milledge caught on the warning track despite falling as he made the catch.
"A ball hit over his head like that must have been veering away from him," manager Willie Randolph said. "But he made a nice adjustment and I was just saying, 'Catch it, please.'"
Billy Wagner pitched the ninth for his 27th save in 29 opportunities as the Mets stayed three games ahead of Philadelphia and 3½ ahead of Atlanta in the NL East. The Phillies beat Washington 3-2 and the Braves defeated San Francisco 5-4.
Mets starter Orlando Hernandez, 3-0 since the All-Star Game, was allowed to throw 130 pitches -- only 70 for strikes -- as he walked five and hit a batter. But he was wildly effective, striking out eight as the Pirates stranded eight runners during his six innings despite getting only five hits.
"He was fine," Randolph said. "He told me he felt great."
The Mets tied it at 3 in the sixth, but missed a chance to go ahead that inning and again in the seventh.
With runners on first and third with one out in the sixth, Wright was called out at second on Beltran's apparent double-play grounder even though it appeared shortstop Jack Wilson never held onto Freddy Sanchez's throw. Umpire Chad Fairchild ruled Wilson was taking the ball out of his glove when he lost control.
Delgado then missed a homer by inches when his drive struck the railing in front of the seats in right, but he didn't run hard out of the box and stopped at first -- even as the Pirates left second base uncovered. Beltran held at third, allowing Pirates starter Ian Snell to get out of the jam by striking out Alou.
In the seventh, Mike DiFelice singled and pinch-hitter Ruben Gotay doubled with one out. Jose Reyes grounded out to short with the infield in, preventing DiFelice from scoring, Luis Castillo was tagged out by catcher Ronny Paulino on a ball that struck in front of the plate and Castillo thought was foul.
Snell struck out seven and walked none in seven innings but allowed eight hits, four for extra bases. He is 0-5 and the Pirates have lost all seven of his starts since the All-Star break. He was 7-5 with a 2.93 ERA at the break.
"I think this start was real good," said Snell, who has been working on pitching inside. "I'm going out and pitching like I did in the first half."
- The Mets were coming off a 2-4 homestand.
- Sanchez, last year's NL batting champion, had two hits and is 23-for-53 (.434) this month.
- The Pirates have lost two straight since winning four in a row. They are 14 losses from a 15th consecutive losing season.
- The Mets are 22-9 against the NL Central.
- The Mets have the NL's best road record (34-25), and the Pirates have the worst home record (26-34).
- The Mets have won Hernandez's last seven starts and nine of his last 10.