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.
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.
"Any time I can hit a home run at home, it's always special," Alvarez said.
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.
"After the home run in the first inning, I felt I settled down," Locke said. "I was able to command my pitches better. The curveball was more effective than any other outing this year."
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.
"I'm not comfortable talking about something individual like this when we've had our struggles in the second half, not having done what all of us thought we were capable of doing," Wright said. "But I'll enjoy it at some point. Probably not tonight."
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.
"I don't want to sit through a whole nine-inning game that I started, that's very disappointing," Hefner, who has a 6.38 ERA in 11 starts, told the team's official website. "Words can't even describe how embarrassing that is."
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.
|August 31, 2012||Jeff Karstens||Day-to-Day||Hip flexor|
|August 27, 2012||Neil Walker||Day-to-Day||Lower back stiffness|
|August 25, 2012||Chad Qualls||15-Day DL||Left toe sprain|
|August 25, 2012||Chad Qualls||15-Day DL||Left toe sprain|
|August 25, 2012||Jose Tabata||Day-to-Day||Left game - left groin discomfort|
|August 19, 2012||Starling Marte||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|New York Mets|
|September 25, 2012||Robert Carson||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left elbow|
|September 12, 2012||Ronny Cedeno||Day-to-Day||Left game - tight right hamstring|
|September 07, 2012||Andres Torres||Day-to-Day||Left knee bruise|
|August 18, 2012||Johan Santana||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|August 15, 2012||Rob Johnson||60-Day DL||Torn ligament, left thumb|
|August 02, 2012||Tim Byrdak||60-Day DL||Sore left shoulder|
NEW YORK (AP) -- David Wright 's record-breaking hit was a little dribbler toward third base, ugly enough to prompt plenty of ribbing from his New York Mets teammates.
"I don't think he really wanted that particular hit to be the one played over and over again," pitcher Jeremy Hefner said, drawing laughs.
Wright set the franchise record for hits and Hefner bounced back from a horrendous start in a 6-0 victory over Pittsburgh on Wednesday night that eliminated the Pirates from playoff contention.
Ruben Tejada tied a career high with four hits, including two RBI singles, and Scott Hairston doubled home a run as the Mets took advantage of some shoddy Pittsburgh defense to win for the fifth time in six games.
"Obviously, it's humbling," Wright said. "A little more exciting - we won today."
Jeff Locke (0-3) was chased in the fourth inning and is still searching for his first major league win after nine starts. The loss left Pittsburgh 7 1/2 games behind St. Louis, with seven to play, in the race for the second NL wild card.
Tied for the NL Central lead a week after the All-Star game, the Pirates have faded quickly in the second half for the second consecutive year. They have dropped 19 of 25 and must go 5-2 the rest of the way to avoid a 20th straight losing season.
Earlier on Wednesday, club president Frank Coonelly said manager Clint Hurdle and GM Neal Huntington will be back next season.
"Support's always good, absolutely," Hurdle said.
Wright reached on an infield single during a four-run third for his 1,419th hit, snapping a tie with Ed Kranepool atop the team's career list.
"I got a chance to show off my blazing speed," Wright said. "Ten years from now, when I'm telling my kids, it's going to be a line drive. It's going to be a little different. But I'll take it. A hit's a hit, and just really excited I could do it at home. The fans were great to me."
The slugger pulled into second base thanks to a throwing error on the play and his achievement was shown on the Citi Field scoreboard. The Mets played a few of Wright's highlights on the big video board, including his first major league hit. He received a warm ovation and quickly waved twice to the skimpy crowd of 22,890 before flashing a wide smile toward the New York dugout.
After the game, Wright's television interview on the field was played throughout the ballpark so the crowd could hear it.
"To be able to do it here at home was extra special," he said.
A six-time All-Star, Wright accomplished the feat in 1,256 games from 2004-12. Kranepool played in 1,853 games from 1962-79.
"It's remarkable," said Mets manager Terry Collins, who had Wright autograph a ball for him. "It's a testament to his work ethic."
Kranepool and Wright posed for pictures together during batting practice.
"Eddie came and saw me before the game, wished me luck and just kind of reiterated the fact he's happy for me and excited for me, and that meant a lot to me," Wright said.
Mets fans get another chance to possibly enjoy a nice moment when knuckleballer R.A. Dickey tries for his 20th win Thursday afternoon against Pittsburgh in New York's home finale.
Hefner (3-7) faced seven batters without recording an out in his previous start, a 16-1 loss to Philadelphia last Thursday. This time, he was on top of his game.
The rookie right-hander allowed only three harmless singles, two to former New York City prep star Pedro Alvarez , over seven outstanding innings. Hefner matched a career high with seven strikeouts and walked just one. He also dropped down two sacrifice bunts that led to runs.
"Everybody in this room was here for his last start, saw his emotions, and saw that he was upset. He had something to prove tonight - that he can pitch here," Collins said. "I believe he showed everybody he belongs here. I was very, very happy for him."
Jeurys Familia finished up with two hitless innings.
In addition to his record-breaking hit, Wright lined a clean single to center in the fourth. Daniel Murphy and Kelly Shoppach each had an RBI single. Andres Torres had three of New York's 14 hits and scored twice.
Pirates star Andrew McCutchen , chasing the NL batting title, went 0 for 4. But he was happy to hear that Hurdle and Huntington will be back next season.
"Yeah, I suppose that's nice," McCutchen said. "Glad they're coming back. Don't have to worry about anybody going anywhere. So, I guess that's always a plus."
NOTES: Dickey's start was moved up a day so he could pitch at home. The last 20-game winner for the Mets was Frank Viola in 1990. "Obviously, there's something that looks pretty about that number," said Dickey, looking to improve his Cy Young Award credentials. ... Collins said there is probably a 70 percent chance that closer Frank Francisco (elbow tendinitis) is done for the season. Francisco hasn't pitched since Sept. 16. ... LHP Robert Carson had an MRI that showed a triceps tendon strain. He is day to day. "A huge sigh of relief for me and for him," Collins said. ... Wright also set franchise records for RBIs, runs and walks this season. The only other active players to lead their current club in career hits are Derek Jeter (Yankees), Todd Helton (Rockies) and Michael Young (Rangers). ... Pirates 2B Neil Walker (lower back) was out of the lineup again and could be shut down for the rest of the season, Hurdle said. ... Rookie LF Starling Marte showed off his powerful arm, throwing out Murphy at the plate by a wide margin.