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.