While they're getting some solid performances on the mound, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been let down by a slumping offense.
The Pirates hope to shake off a disappointing homestand and get back on track at the plate Thursday night when they open a four-game set at Citi Field against a New York Mets team having its own problems offensively.
Following a promising 14-5 stretch in April, Pittsburgh (18-15) lost five of its last eight games.
Seattle ace Felix Hernandez added to the Pirates' offensive woes Wednesday, allowing one run in eight innings in a 2-1 victory that earned the Mariners a two-game split.
"It just seems that we've got to find a better answer," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Maybe it's our mindset but we're getting pitched tough. It's not like it's chopped liver we've been facing."
As their starters posted a 2.70 ERA on the 2-3 homestand, the Pirates provided them only 12 runs of support. They lost three of the final four games while managing no more than seven hits in any of them and drawing a combined five walks.
It's been a similar struggle for the Mets (13-17), who scored one run over six innings for starter Jeremy Hefner in a 6-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday.
New York has dropped eight of 11 while batting .193, including 72 strikeouts over the last seven.
"Sometimes it looks like we're pressing," manager Terry Collins told the league's official website. "Whether we are or not, again, it just looks like it. We've certainly got to relax and put better swings on the ball."
It might not get easier for Collins' club against Pittsburgh left-hander Jeff Locke in the opener. The Mets are hitting .205 with five homers and 20 RBIs in their last 13 games versus southpaws.
Locke (3-1, 3.21 ERA) had given the Pirates rotation a lift with 13 shutout innings in consecutive road starts, winning both, before allowing four runs over five innings in a 5-4 home loss to Washington on Saturday.
"Everything felt pretty good," said Locke, 3-0 with a 2.60 ERA in his last five starts. "I just need to be a little bit more efficient early in the count."
Locke was hit hard in his only career start at Citi Field, allowing five runs and nine hits over 3 2-3 innings in a 6-0 loss Sept. 26.
Wright is 0 for 5 with three strikeouts this week after homering in three straight games, but he hit .370 with two homers and nine RBIs in seven games against Pittsburgh last season. The Mets won both series between the teams.
Dillon Gee (2-4, 6.16) will face the Pirates for the first time since 2011 and has been dominant against them, going 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA in three starts.
Gee, though, enters Thursday with one of the highest ERAs in the majors. He's been tagged for eight runs and 16 hits in 11 innings over his last two starts.
The right-hander has a 2.50 ERA in three outings at Citi Field but has gone 1-2 while getting a combined two runs of support.
McCutchen is 1 for 9 against Gee but has been hot lately, batting .464 with two homers and five RBIs in his last seven games.
Marte is hitting .393 with four homers and eight RBIs over a seven-game hitting streak.
|May 07, 2013||James McDonald||15-Day DL||Right shoulder discomfort|
|April 27, 2013||Travis Snider||Day-to-Day||Left side discomfort|
|April 27, 2013||Neil Walker||15-Day DL||Right index finger laceration|
|April 26, 2013||Neil Walker||Day-to-Day||Left game - right index finger|
|April 09, 2013||Wandy Rodriguez||Day-to-Day||Left game - left leg strain|
|March 26, 2013||Brandon Inge||15-Day DL||Right scapula soreness|
|New York Mets|
|April 29, 2013||David Wright||Day-to-Day||Stiff neck|
|April 23, 2013||Jonathon Niese||Day-to-Day||Lower right leg contusion|
|March 22, 2013||Shaun Marcum||15-Day DL||Neck strain|
|March 22, 2013||Jenrry Mejia||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
|March 22, 2013||Frank Francisco||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
|March 22, 2013||Johan Santana||60-Day DL||Left shoulder surgery - out for season|
NEW YORK (AP) -- Once Juan Lagares saved the game with his glove, he gladly let Mike Baxter win it with his bat.
Lagares robbed Andrew McCutchen of a go-ahead hit with a leaping catch at the wall in the top of the ninth inning, then Baxter's pinch-hit single in the bottom half sent the New York Mets over the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 Thursday night.
"At home plate, I didn't do very well with the bat," Lagares said. "I tried to forget it and play defense."
Baxter delivered his second winning pinch-hit in three days. His 10th-inning single Tuesday beat the Chicago White Sox.
This time, Baxter batted for Lagares and won it.
"Very enjoyable. Good feeling," Baxter said.
Lagares was equally responsible for the victory. Before the game, Mets manager Terry Collins said the rookie center fielder might win a game with his defense - he was right, maybe sooner than he expected.
Called up from Triple-A on April 23 because of his bat and mitt, Lagares preserved the ninth-inning tie with his gem.
With a runner on first and two outs, McCutchen hit a loud shot into faraway right-center field. Lagares glided back, perfectly timed his leap and plucked the ball at the top of the fence as he rammed into the padded wall. It was a fantastic play, yet he seemed so under control he made it look almost routine.
"I got a good jump," he said. "I saw it all the way into the glove."
Asked if he thought the ball would've cleared the wall, Lagares said it was close. Either way, it would've at least been a tiebreaking extra-base hit.
"That was huge," Baxter said. "Lagares saves the game."
McCutchen wasn't so surprised.
"I thought he was going to catch it at the wall. I didn't think I got enough of it to get it out," he said.
Marlon Byrd singled to start the Mets' ninth off Jason Grilli (0-1). Andrew Brown sacrificed and Baxter followed by grounding a single up the middle, easily scoring Byrd.
It's been quite a week for Baxter, who grew up in the shadow of Shea Stadium - just a few minutes from where Citi Field now stands.
Baxter is now 5 for 9 as a pinch-hitter this season. Not bad for someone who, before this week, might've been known solely for making a sensational catch to preserve Johan Santana 's no-hitter last year.
Bobby Parnell (4-0) pitched the ninth. The Pirates have lost four of five.
Pedro Alvarez hit a solo home run with one out in the eighth off Mets reliever LaTroy Hawkins that made it 2-all. Alvarez began the day batting .168 and in a 1-for-16 rut before a single, sacrifice fly and long drive for his sixth homer.
Slumping Ike Davis put the Mets ahead 2-1 in the seventh after entering in the top half during a double switch. He took a terrible swing at a first-pitch slider, then hit the next pitch for an RBI double just beyond the reach of a sliding McCutchen deep in the right-center field alley.
Pittsburgh starter Jeff Locke left for a pinch-hitter in the seventh. He gave up three hits, all of them singles in the second inning.
The Pirates tied it at 1 in the sixth. They loaded the bases with no outs when McCutchen and Garrett Jones singled and Russell Martin was hit by a pitch, finishing starter Dillon Gee .
Reliever Brandon Lyon avoided major trouble, yielding only a sacrifice fly by Alvarez that made it 1-all.
The Mets scored in the second on singles by John Buck and Justin Turner and a sacrifice fly by Byrd. The run ended a streak of 15 scoreless innings on the road for Locke, a span that included outings at Dodger Stadium, Philadelphia and St. Louis.
NOTES: Baxter and Alvarez both played high school ball in New York City and went to Vanderbilt. ... Buck and Brown ended 0-for-14 slumps. Brown's drought began last year with Colorado. Brown scored on Davis' double. ... Martin had missed the previous two games because of a stiff neck. ... Pirates 2B Neil Walker (right hand cut) is starting a rehab assignment with Double-A Altoona. He can come off the disabled list Sunday. ... Pirates RHP Charlie Morton will throw a bullpen session Friday. He's recovering from Tommy John surgery last June, and had shoulder stiffness last week in a Triple-A rehab outing.