NEW YORK – As far as Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco were concerned, there was no better way to honor Roberto Clemente than playing well in a win.
On a night particularly meaningful to both of them, Lindor and Carrasco propelled the New York Mets past the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-1 on Thursday to extend their slim lead in the NL East as Major League Baseball celebrated Roberto Clemente Day at Citi Field.
“It was a special day. There was a lot more buzz around, a lot of happy energy in the building," Lindor said. "But it's still a grind. I'm still tired, and I'll be tired tomorrow. I'm just happy a lot of guys were able to contribute to today's win, including myself."
Lindor launched his 24th home run to set a Mets season record for shortstops, and Carrasco (15-6) struck out a season-best 11 in six splendid innings as New York moved a game ahead of idle Atlanta.
“It was really special for me,” said Carrasco, a past winner of baseball's Roberto Clemente Award for community service and playing excellence.
Slumping designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach drove in three runs against his former team, and pinch-hitter Mark Vientos had an RBI single for his first major league hit.
Vientos' parents were in attendance and he planned to give them the souvenir ball.
“Memorable, for sure. Just felt really good getting the first one out of the way,” he said. “Take a deep breath now and play baseball.”
Breaking out early at the plate in the opener of a four-game series, the Mets halted a five-game home losing streak and rebounded from a three-game sweep by the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field.
New York (90-55), which hasn't lost four straight all year, improved to 6-7 in a 16-game stretch against Washington, Pittsburgh, Miami and Chicago — all more than 20 games under .500 this season.
Michael Chavis had an RBI double in the second for the last-place Pirates. JT Brubaker (3-12) was tagged for five runs and seven hits over three innings before leaving with discomfort in his right lat muscle. He is day-to-day and expects to undergo an MRI.
“It’s a weird feeling. Never really felt anything in that area, so it’s kind of hard to describe,” Brubaker said.
Carrasco was playing catch in the outfield to get loose as more than a dozen other winners of the Roberto Clemente Award were introduced during a pregame ceremony. A leukemia survivor, Carrasco won the cherished prize in 2019 with Cleveland.
Major League Baseball was celebrating its 21st annual Roberto Clemente Day, with festivities centered at Citi Field where all players and coaches wore Clemente's No. 21 to honor the Pirates Hall of Fame outfielder who died in a plane crash at age 38 attempting to deliver relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua on New Year’s Eve 1972.
Lindor, like Clemente a proud native of Puerto Rico, hit a two-run homer into the second deck in right field to make it 4-0 in the third and establish a career high for RBIs with 94.
Mets manager Buck Showalter said he initially thought about giving Lindor a little break as the DH, but the star shortstop wanted to play the field — especially on this day.
“I knew what a big night it is for him with Roberto Clemente,” Showalter said. “I know that meant a lot to him. But he’s just been a rock for us in so many ways.”
Jeff McNeil followed with a double and Vogelbach, acquired from Pittsburgh in a July trade, added an RBI single.
Vogelbach got the Mets going in the first with a two-run double off Brubaker.
The 35-year-old Carrasco mostly cruised and improved to 7-2 with a 2.12 ERA in his past 11 starts. He became the first 15-game winner for the Mets since Jacob deGrom in 2017.
Coming off a four-game sweep in Cincinnati, the Pirates began a stretch of six consecutive games in New York that includes two at Yankee Stadium next Tuesday and Wednesday. They struck out 16 times and got outhit 10-4 as they were denied their first five-game winning streak since April 2019.
Mets ace RHP Max Scherzer (left oblique irritation) is expected to come off the injured list and start Monday in Milwaukee. ... Showalter said catcher Tomás Nido was sore after getting hit by a couple of foul balls Wednesday. ... RHP Tylor Megill (right shoulder strain) and RHP Drew Smith (right lat strain) are not too far from returning, Showalter said. ... Hitting coach Eric Chavez left the team for a few days to go home and attend to a family matter. He'll probably be back next week in Milwaukee, Showalter said.
Pittsburgh recalled LHP Eric Stout from Triple-A Indianapolis. He allowed one run over two innings in relief of Brubaker. RHP Tyler Beede and LHP Dillon Peters were designated for assignment.
Pirates RHP Mitch Keller (5-10, 4.01 ERA) starts Friday night against Taijuan Walker (11-4, 3.48).
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports