The New York Mets struggled on last week’s homestand. Now, they’ll try to get back on track at a ballpark where they haven’t had much success lately.
After watching their NL East lead shrink to three games, the Mets open a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on Tuesday.
New York (65-52) entered a six-game homestand on Tuesday with a 4 1/2-game cushion in the division standings, but Mets pitchers posted a 5.33 ERA as the team lost four of six games, including two of three against division rival Atlanta.
The Mets now lead second-place Philadelphia by three games with Atlanta trailing by 3 1/2.
After losing three straight home games for the first time since a four-game skid June 3-7, the Mets capped the homestand with a 10-4 win over Florida on Sunday.
“It wasn’t the homestand we wanted, but we got it done in the end,” manager Willie Randolph said.
The Mets hope to regroup at PNC Park. They were swept in a three-game series in Pittsburgh last year, and have lost seven of their last eight contests there.
New York, though, has the league’s best record against NL Central opponents at 21-9, and won two of three against Pittsburgh (49-67) at Shea Stadium July 24-26.
Moises Alou, who homered twice on Sunday, is 14-for-40 (.350) with five home runs in 11 games this month. He had only two homers in his first 34 games.
“I feel good at the plate right now,” said Alou, a .316 career hitter against the Pirates.
Alou and the Mets will face a Pirates club that has won four of its last five games. Pittsburgh swept a three-game series in San Francisco over the weekend, then split a doubleheader against the Giants at home on Monday. The Pirates won the opener 3-1 behind a complete game from Paul Maholm before having their win streak snapped with a 10-3 loss in the nightcap.
They’ll try to bounce back with Ian Snell (7-10, 3.87 ERA) on the mound. Snell was 6-4 with a 2.63 ERA in 14 starts through June 13, but is 1-6 with a 6.11 ERA in his last nine outings. Pittsburgh has dropped the right-hander’s six starts since the All-Star break, with Snell going 0-5 with a 7.31 ERA in those games.
Snell, though, didn’t get a decision after delivering a quality start in his last outing on Thursday. He held Arizona to two runs and six hits while striking out seven in six innings, but the Pirates went on to lose 4-2.
“After having five games that are not Ian Snell-like, to bounce back and have that kind of performance tonight, that’s what you want a guy to leave with, that type of feeling,” manager Jim Tracy said.
Snell is 0-1 with a 7.59 ERA in three career games, including two starts, against the Mets. In his lone start against them this year, he gave up a season high-tying six earned runs in four innings of an 8-4 loss July 24.
While the Pirates have struggled in Snell’s second-half starts, the Mets have won each of their six games started by Orlando Hernandez (7-4, 3.05) since the break. Hernandez is 3-0 with a 2.72 ERA in those outings.
The right-hander didn’t get a decision Wednesday after allowing three runs and four hits in seven innings of New York’s 4-3 victory over Atlanta.
He has dominated the Pirates, going 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in three career starts against them - all in 2006.
Freddy Sanchez, batting .420 (21-for-50) with 10 RBIs in 12 games this month, is just 1-for-8 lifetime against Hernandez.