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Pirates-Mets Preview

AP - Sports

Garrett Jones is proving to be more productive on the road than at home. That's certainly held true against the New York Mets.

Jones looks to continue his impressive hitting at Citi Field on Saturday and help the Pittsburgh Pirates to a second straight win over the sputtering Mets.

Jones is hitting .327 with four homers, six doubles and 12 RBIs on the road, compared to a .271 average with four extra-base hits - one homer - while knocking in eight runs at home.

The first baseman has been particularly good in the past nine games away from Pittsburgh, batting .353 with three homers and nine RBIs.

Jones' production against the Mets is also much better as the visitor. He owns a .327 average in 14 games in Flushing, going 10 for 24 with seven RBIs in the past seven meetings there, compared to 3 for 18 over his last eight at home.

He hit New York hard again Friday, collecting two doubles and a three-run homer in a 7-3 win, a day after the Pirates (19-16) dropped the opener of this four-game set 3-2.

Starling Marte also had three hits while adding an RBI Friday, and he's batting .355 on the road.

Jones and Marte, though, may be in for a stiff test with the Mets (14-18), losers of six of eight at home, scheduled to send Jonathon Niese (2-3, 4.66 ERA) to the mound.

The left-hander is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in three starts against Pittsburgh, but he hasn't come close to being that effective recently.

Niese is 0-3 with a 5.68 ERA over his last four starts and his latest performance was his worst of the season. He was tagged for seven runs over four innings and matched his career high with six walks in Sunday's 9-4 loss at Atlanta.

"It's embarrassing," Niese said. "I know what I have to work on. In bullpens I'm going to work on pounding the zone and throwing strikes. I've just got to learn from it and know when to expand the zone and when not to."

Niese, though, could use some help from the offense, which has backed him with five total runs over his last four games. He probably shouldn't expect much of an improvement in this outing, with the Mets batting .198 and averaging 2.4 runs over the last eight home contests.

Lucas Duda is one of the major culprits, going 3 for 26 with a solo homer and eight strikeouts over that stretch. He's 0 for 16 over his last six meetings with Pittsburgh after going hitless in five at-bats in this series.

Facing the punchless Mets would seem a good way for Francisco Liriano to make his Pirates debut.

The left-hander, who suffered a broken right arm in December, went 2-1 with a 4.15 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 21 2-3 innings over five minor league starts.

"I'm very happy with the way everything is going, and I'm happy to be here, to get another chance to compete," Liriano told the team's official website.

Liriano, who is facing the Mets for the first time, was 3-2 with a 5.40 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 52 2-3 innings over 12 games - 11 starts - with the Chicago White Sox last year after opening the season with Minnesota.

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