WSH@PIT: Martin's RBI double pulls Pirates closer

NEW YORK -- Russell Martin's neck stiffness, the malady that had prevented the catcher from participating in four of the Pirates' past five games, had subsided overnight to allow the club to send understudy catcher Tony Sanchez to its Triple-A Indianapolis affiliate before the final game of the four-game series at Citi Field.

Michael McKenry started behind the play for the third straight game.

"There is enough improvement," manager Clint Hurdle said, "that we thought we can cover the game if something might happen to Michael."

That is to say, Martin could catch if necessary, or Hurdle could use an emergency catcher -- John McDonald or, less likely, Brandon Inge.

Sanchez had been brought to New York on Saturday morning and was available to be added to the roster if needed. But he didn't dress for the game Saturday. Still, there was an advantage to his brief exposure to the big league game, according to Hurdle.

"Just to get a taste of what it's like and begin the acclimation process," said the skipper. Hurdle knows about emergency catching. At the urging of then-Mets manager Davey Johnson, Hurdle, an outfielder and first baseman by trade in the 1970s and early '80s, turned to catching in 1984. He spent the entire season in Triple-A, learning his new trade and then caught in 17 games, starting 12, with Johnson's team in '85. Hurdle also caught in five games, starting three, with the Cardinals in '86.

On Mother's Day, Bucs get pink pop from Barmes

PIT@NYM: Barmes' solo shot ties game at 1 in third

NEW YORK -- Manager Clint Hurdle wanted to make this clear: "I told my mother she's my favorite mother."

"I love this day," he said. "It's a great day."

And he endorsed Major League Baseball's Mother's Day program, and all the pink it entails. Hurdle promised to wear something pink, but probably not the pink Phiten that was on his desk.

"I don't like things on my neck," he said. "Someone gave me one once, and I put it in my back [uniform] pocket," Hurdle said.

Travis Snider, Garrett Jones, Starling Marte, Pedro Alvarez, John McDonald and Clint Barmes, all in the starting lineup, used pink bats Sunday in recognition of Mother's Day and breast cancer awareness. Snider wore pink spikes, Mike McKenry used pink batting gloves and Andrew McCutchen work one pink wrist band.

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Barmes, swinging the pink, knocked a home run off Matt Harvey in the third inning of the Pirates' 3-2 victory against the Mets. It was just Barmes' second this season, with the other coming against Stephen Strasburg on May 4 in Pittsburgh.

Barmes hits home runs far less frequently than Strasburg and Harvey surrender them. Strasburg has allowed five so far this season, Harvey three. It's a home run go-figure.

"I have no explanation," Barmes said.

He has hit 83 homers in his career, but 61 came when he was a member of the Rockies, pre- and post-humidifier. A dozen more came last season when his home was cozy Minute Maid Park in Houston. So what do we do with that evidence?

Even his bats are not factors in this oddity. He used one of his own bats, a black model against Strasburg. And Sunday, he borrowed a pink bat from John McDonald and swatted a pink-stitched baseball over the blue wall with the orange stripe atop it at Citi Field.

"I don't think the color had much to do with it," Barmes said. "I had my own [pink] bats, but John's felt better."

Mercer could be pushed aside in Walker's return

PIT@NYM: Mercer hits two homers in win over the Mets

NEW YORK -- Clint Hurdle indicated no final decision had been made involving Jordy Mercer, who has been a productive replacement for injured second baseman Neil Walker. Hurdle, though, was clear on one aspect of the situation -- Walker will play Monday night against the Brewers after his disabled list assignment ends. Mercer will not.

Hurdle asked rhetorically, "Do I want to see Mercer sitting in the bench in the big leagues?"

Rhetorical answer: No. Though Mercer, 26, may be a tad too old to be considered a genuine prospect, the Pirates like his bat. But for now, his path to the big leagues is effectively blocked by Walker.

Mercer had four hits in his first nine at-bats in the series at Citi Field.

Noteworthy

• The rehab program for pitcher Charlie Morton calls for him to throw 35-pitch bullpen session, using all his pitches, Monday and then graduate to rehab starts in Double-A. He is tentatively scheduled to pitch four innings (65 pitches) in with the Double-A Altoona on Thursday.

• On the disabled list, James McDonald is to do minimal throwing for now as he continues his recovery from shoulder injury.