One defeat from inevitable playoff elimination and four from a 20th consecutive losing season, the Pittsburgh Pirates are hoping to finish a once-promising campaign on a high note. They'll look to win consecutive games for only the second time in three weeks Wednesday night against the host New York Mets. Pittsburgh (76-78) has gone from holding the NL's second wild-card spot in early August to a postseason afterthought while dropping 31 of its last 44 games, simliar to last season's collapse despite holding out hopes of filling one less wildcard spot.
The Pirates staved off official elimination from the postseason race with a 10-6 victory over the Mets on Tuesday night, though, as New York native Pedro Alvarez hit his 30th homer and drove in four runs. Andrew McCutchen is hitting .336, which leads the NL after San Francisco's Melky Cabrera removed himself from consideration from the batting title due to his positive test for performance-enhancing drugs. Pittsburgh hasn't won two in a row since beating Houston on Sept. 4 and 5, and it will send Jeff Locke to the mound Wednesday.
Locke (0-2, 5.47 ERA) has a 6.64 ERA in four starts after giving up three runs in five innings of a 7-1 loss to Houston on Friday. The left-hander, though, gave up one hit over his final four innings and finished with a career-high eight strikeouts after allowing a three-run homer in the first. Locke, searching for his first career victory in his ninth start and 11th overall appearance, has never faced the Mets, who had their four-game winning streak snapped Tuesday.
Justin Turner (two-run shot) and David Wright hit back-to-back homers in the first for New York (70-84). Wright also had a two-run single, tying him with Ed Kranepool for the team record with 1,418 hits. The Mets look to bounce back with help form Jeremy Hefner, who is coming off an awful performance. Hefner (2-7, 5.79) didn't record an out while giving up seven runs in a 16-1 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday. He became only the 17th starting pitcher since 1921 to allow at least seven earned runs without retiring a single batter. The right-hander has never faced Pittsburgh, which has lost 10 of 13 at Citi Field since it opened in 2009. The Mets have won four of five overall at home following a 4-25 stretch.
As expected the price is a bit on the higher side this evening but given the struggles of both pitchers we may see both teams break out the whooping sticks once again. The Pirates may be hitting just .246 overall but McCutchen (.336 30 93) leads the team in RBI and is tied with a streaking Alvarez (.243 30 85) in HR. Despite playing through ups and downs along with injuries Garrett Jones (.282 25 77) is having another solid overall season. Neil Walker (.280 14 69) has also not seen consistent time this month due to injuries and the lack of offense has once again sealed Pittsburgh's fate down the stretch once again likely not qualifying for the postseason despite a promising start out of the gate. The future does look brighter with the acquisition of Gabby Sanchez and rookie Starling Marte, while Michael McKenry will look to be the everyday catcher in 2013. While the Mets are once again tanking a second straight season decisively in the second half, at least Ike Davis (.225 30 88) salvaged an anorexic first half by silencing his critics currently leading the club in HR while tied with David Wright (.306 20 88) in RBI. Wright's milestone hit last night didn't do much to put a silver lining on a second half that has seen their top all around hitter struggle. In 2013 the Mets hope to have Scott Hairston (.260 19 52) and Lucas Duda (.243 14 54) for the stretch drive, while Terry Collins will need to figure out what to do with a ridiculously overpaid underachieving Jason Bay (.155 8 20) who according to fans has more than overstayed his welcome. Best of luck however you play!