The New York Mets guaranteed another losing season for the Pittsburgh Pirates in their series opener. With Jonathon Niese(notes) on the mound Saturday night, they’ll have a great chance to pull themselves above .500.
Niese tries to continue his fine form and change his luck as the visiting Mets try to capture their first NL road series by again beating the MLB-worst Pirates.
New York (61-61) hadn’t scored seven runs since July 28 and had recorded 12 hits just once since the All-Star break, but its hapless offense finally broke out in Friday’s opener at Pittsburgh. The Mets had that many hits through four innings and finished with 15 in a 7-2 rout of the Pirates.
“Hopefully we can continue to put together those kind of at-bats, those kind of games,” said manager Jerry Manuel, who called his offense “pathetic” Thursday. “We always had the faith we could do it.”
The loss assured Pittsburgh (40-82) its 18th consecutive losing season, the longest run of futility in major American pro sports history. This was the earliest the Pirates have hit 82 losses in that stretch.
“I don’t like it - nobody likes the record,” manager John Russell said. “We still have a lot of work to do. … We all expect something better every year. Nobody wants to lose this many games.”
They’ll try to avoid a 12th loss in 13 games Saturday, but with Niese (7-5, 3.38 ERA) on the hill it won’t be easy. The left-hander has allowed just a run over seven innings in each of his last three starts, but hasn’t received a decision.
Niese struck out five without a walk Monday at Houston, but was gone before the Mets scored twice in the ninth to secure a 3-1 victory.
He didn’t factor in his only previous start against Pittsburgh, either. Niese gave up two runs and seven hits over six innings May 8, 2009, in a 7-3 win.
As unsurprising as it would be to see the Pirates’ offense stay silent - they’ve scored two or fewer runs in eight of nine games - New York hasn’t played well on the road. A win Saturday would give the Mets their first road series win over an NL team since Sept. 25-27 at Florida.
They did, however, sweep Cleveland and Baltimore in interleague play.
Recent acquisition James McDonald(notes) (2-2, 4.26) has pitched well for the Pirates. McDonald held Florida to a run and three hits over seven innings in a 7-1 victory Monday, improving to 2-1 with a 2.55 ERA in three starts since coming over from Los Angeles.
“I love this guy,” Russell said after McDonald improved to 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA at Pittsburgh. “I hated him when he pitched against us. I knew what he could bring. He’s a guy that, when he goes out there, you know he’s going to give you a pretty good start.”
McDonald is 0-0 with an 8.10 ERA in four relief appearances against New York.
“That’s the way I see it. I could be way out of line or way out of bounds, but that’s the way I see it,” Manuel said.