Pirates-Mets Preview

It’s been more than four decades since the Pittsburgh Pirates
have enjoyed this type of success from their starting rotation.
With another strong effort, the Pirates could exceed their road win
total from all of last year before the official start of
summer.

To do that, they’ll need to contend with Jose Reyes.

Paul Maholm takes the mound for the surging Pirates on Thursday
as they look to take three of four road games from the New York
Mets, who expect Reyes back in the lineup after he missed the first
three games of this series.

Pittsburgh (26-28) has won eight of its last 13 games, with
stellar starting pitching the primary reason.

The rotation has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 13
consecutive starts, its longest such streak since a 14-game run
Sept. 13-27, 1968 – the year before major league baseball lowered
the pitcher’s mound.

“It’s never easy,” first-year Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
“You just can’t take for granted what they’re doing, because this
is the major leagues and any team on any night can go ahead and
drop something on you. … Our guys have been very impressive.”

Kevin Correia kept the streak going and became the first
eight-game winner in the majors Wednesday by allowing two runs over
six innings of Pittsburgh’s 9-3 victory. The Pirates, who have won
the last two games after a 7-3 loss in Monday’s series opener,
haven’t won three in a row road games versus the Mets since a
four-game run bridging 2003 and 2004.

A third straight victory Thursday would give Pittsburgh a 5-2
road trip and 18 wins away from home on the season, one more than
its total from 2010.

“That was a target area going in, an area of attention, and our
guys have responded very well to it,” Hurdle said.

Maholm (2-7, 3.18 ERA) enjoyed his best performance of the
season in Saturday’s 10-0 rout of the Chicago Cubs, needing only 91
pitches to toss a three-hitter. The left-hander got double the run
support he received in his previous five starts combined. He went
0-4 with a 3.41 ERA in five starts during that stretch.

“You go out there and you do everything you can to make sure the
team has a chance. And I think I’ve done that,” said Maholm, who is
0-2 with a 10.38 ERA in his last three starts against New York.

Reyes, who is 7 for 19 against Maholm, is expected back in the
lineup after missing three games while on the bereavement list
following the death of his grandmother.

The shortstop leads the Mets with a .335 average, and had been
14 for 27 with three doubles and two triples in the six games prior
to his inactive spell. He’s hitting .403 over his last 14 games
against the Pirates.

He may need to provide a big boost for New York (25-30), which
has compiled a 6.16 staff ERA during its current 3-8 swoon.

“They’re big league players. They should be able to do it,”
manager Terry Collins said. “I told the coaches, ‘We’ve got to do a
better job. We’ve got to take responsibility for this.’ I mean, I’m
the manager. It comes back on my shoulders. … Maybe I have to
make some adjustments. And by God, they’ll be made. I don’t know if
it comes with finding different players, but something’s going to
be changed.”

Mike Pelfrey (3-4, 5.00) gets the ball for the Mets seeking his
first win in four starts. He’s 0-1 with a 3.48 ERA in his last
three, getting just six total runs of support in those outings.

The right-hander limited Philadelphia to two runs in 7 2-3
innings Saturday, but the bullpen wasted his effort in a 5-2
loss.

Pelfrey has allowed four runs over 15 innings to win his last
two starts against the Pirates.