The New York Mets are 0-for-1 in trying to clinch their first division title in 18 years.
After dropping the series opener, the Mets will again try to become the first team this season to secure a postseason berth when they continue a weekend set with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday.
New York (90-56) failed to win the NL East for the first time since 1988 after dropping a 5-3 decision in Friday’s series opener. A win would have given the Mets the division outright.
They also could have backed into playoffs if Philadelphia lost to Houston. But the Phillies got a first-inning grand slam from Pat Burrell, overcame a ninth-inning fielding error by Jeff Conine that loaded the bases and held on for a 4-3 win over Houston.
“Some of us I think want to try to win the game on the field,” said Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca, who was ejected in the fifth inning for arguing with an umpire. “It would have been nice. We’re not backing into anything.
“We’ve won a lot of games, and we’ve played well. But still, hopefully, we will take care of it tomorrow night.”
Pedro Martinez lasted just three innings in his first start for the Mets since missing more than a month with a strained calf. Martinez threw 68 pitches — including 46 strikes—and allowed four runs, six hits and one walk with four strikeouts.
He also hit a batter, threw a wild pitch and had a throwing error.
“I didn’t see the results I was expecting,” Martinez said. “When you come off so many days without throwing the ball, you want to make a statement. I wanted to do a little bit better.”
Mets manager Willie Randolph said Martinez was healthy and would make his next scheduled start.
“I thought he did pretty well, actually,” Randolph said. “He’s a competitor, he’s a warrior and it didn’t work out like he wanted. He’s a little frustrated.”
Relievers Darren Oliver, Heath Bell and Pedro Feliciano combined to allow a run and three hits over the final five innings, but couldn’t stop the Mets from losing for just the eighth time in 27 games.
Jason Bay had a two-run double in the first off Martinez to stake Pittsburgh (61-87) to an early lead. He added his career-high 33rd homer in the seventh.
“It shows the way we’ve been playing,” said Bay, whose team is 31-27 since the All-Star break after a 30-60 start. “Regardless of who we’re playing, we are playing good baseball. It’s somewhat gratifying against teams like this to stack yourself up to see how you have been doing.”
New York’s Orlando Hernandez (10-10, 4.96 ERA) will try to overcome some recent inconsistency. The right-hander has alternated wins and losses in his last five starts.
In his last three wins, all at home, the right-hander has recorded a 1.80 ERA. But in the two road losses, he’s given up 12 earned runs in only 9 2-3 innings for an 11.61 ERA.
Hernandez allowed one earned run and four hits in seven innings of a 3-2 home win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday.
He’s made two starts this season against Pittsburgh—once with New York and once with Arizona, the team from which the Mets acquired him on May 24. El Duque scattered four hits in seven innings of a 5-0 win over the Pirates on July 5.
Tom Gorzelanny (2-3, 3.74) will make his first start since Aug. 15 for Pittsburgh. The rookie left-hander was placed on the 15-day DL on Aug. 28 with a sore elbow.
Gorzelanny took a loss for his first major league decision when he faced New York on July 6 at Shea Stadium. He gave up five runs, four hits, walked four and hit a batter over four innings of a 7-5 defeat.
Gorzelanny is 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in four starts at PNC Park.