5 things to watch as Mets face Pirates in three-game series at Citi Field

Here are five things to watch when the Mets face the Pittsburgh Pirates in a three-game series at Citi Field...

Pete Alonso is on fire

After enduring a mini-slump at the beginning of the Mets' recent road trip, Alonso has been locked in.

He has reached base safely in each of his last six games, and has been on base twice in each of his last five.

Alonso's triple slash was .167/.222/.310 entering play last Tuesday and is now .271/.358/.593.

He has blasted four homers in his last five games while striking out just twice, and is on pace to finish the season with 65 homers and 108 RBI.

Alonso's eruption has been huge for a middle of a Mets lineup that is still waiting on the debut of J.D. Martinez.

Mets' bullpen has been terrific

Despite some musical chairs and DFA's at the bottom of it, the Mets' bullpen has been very good this season.

Edwin Diaz has been nails while returning from the knee injury that cost him all of 2023, and so have the Mets' other top five bullpen arms.

Drew Smith and Brooks Raley haven't allowed an earned run.

Meanwhile, Adam Ottavino has a 3.00 ERA and 0.67 WHIP.

Then there's Jorge Lopez, who entered the season as a wild card of sorts and has been very good, with a 2.45 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.

Beyond the expected high-leverage arms, Reed Garrett has been a revelation, firing 6.2 scoreless innings over three appearances while allowing just three hits, walking two, and striking out 11.

Francisco Lindor is slowly starting to percolate

During a weekend series at Citi Field where the fans repeatedly showered Lindor with appreciation, he continued to show signs of breaking out.

It's still been a bit of a struggle for him, but Lindor went 1-for-3 with a walk and run scored on Friday, drew a walk and scored a run on Saturday, and went 2-for-4 on Sunday.

New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) runs out an RBI double against the San Diego Padres during the seventh inning at Citi Field

He still looks a tad off and is making more weak contact than usual, but the worm is definitely starting to turn.

How will Adrian Houser bounce back?

Following a strong debut outing, Houser was hit hard against the Braves last Tuesday in Atlanta.

He allowed five runs on eight hits while walking two and striking out only one in five innings of work in New York's 6-5 loss.

That Houser was hit hard by Atlanta's relentless offense wasn't a surprise, since any pitcher could be easily victimized by that lineup.

But it will be interesting to see how Houser bounces back.

The Mets' rotation is not at full strength, but with Jose Butto starting to cement a spot, Kodai Senga possibly returning at the end of May, and prospect Christian Scott knocking on the door, New York could have some decisions to make relatively soon about the makeup of the starting five.

Pirates are just latest tough test for New York

The Mets have had one of the hardest early-season schedules in baseball, with their opponents so far having a combined 47-27 record.

Here's who New York has faced:

Brewers (10-4)
Tigers (9-6)
Reds (9-6)
Braves (9-5)
Royals (10-6)
New York's difficult stretch continues with the Pirates, who enter the series at 11-5 and tied with the Brewers for first place in the NL Central.

Pittsburgh's offense includes Ke'Bryan Hayes, Oneil Cruz and Bryan Reynolds, they have elite closer David Bednar, and their rotation is led by Mitch Keller -- who is not scheduled to face the Mets this week.