Pirates aim for second straight win over faltering Mets
NEW YORK — A lineup shakeup produced the desired results Monday night for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Unfortunately for the New York Mets, rookie manager Mickey Callaway already unsuccessfully pulled that out of his bag of tricks.
The Pirates will look to lock up a series win Tuesday over the free-falling Mets Tuesday night, when the two teams play the middle game of a three-game set at Citi Field.
The Pirates ended a five-game losing streak Monday night, when a rejiggered top of the lineup scored five runs in a 6-4 victory.
The Pirates’ top three batters — Starling Marte, Josh Bell and Josh Harrison — were all occupying those spots for the first time this season. Marte scored three runs and stole two bases, Bell hit a two-run homer and Harrison delivered a sacrifice fly and scored a run.
The six runs were the most the Pirates (37-41) have scored since an 8-6 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on June 17. Pittsburgh scored nine runs in the subsequent six games.
“If it’s broken, you have to fix it, right?” Bell said Monday night. “Changing things up, giving us all a new view. Marte hasn’t led off in a while. ‘J-Hey’ is hitting third. Changing things up, it might have been the spark that we needed.”
The Mets (31-45) have been looking for a spark for weeks. New York has lost seven straight, 18 of 22 and 20 of 64 since an 11-1 start to fall dangerously close to the bottom of the National League. The only team with a worse record in the Senior Circuit is the Miami Marlins, who rank mere percentage points behind at 32-47.
Shuffling the lineup hasn’t worked for Callaway, who had three players (second-place batter Jose Bautista, cleanup batter Dominic Smith and sixth-place batter Jose Reyes) in unfamiliar spots Monday. Smith was batting cleanup for the first time this year while Bautista and Reyes were occupying their spots for the second and third time, respectively.
Against the New York Yankees on June 9, Callaway batted Amed Rosario leadoff for the first time as a major leaguer and Todd Frazier and Brandon Nimmo second and third, respectively, for the first time this season in a 4-3 loss.
With the Mets seeing no immediate payoff for Callaway’s mixing and matching, he is left to hope the lessons learned from the extended bleak times will yield results down the road.
“As hard as it’s been, we have to understand that this is something that we can benefit from in the long run,” Callaway said Monday afternoon. “No matter how many times you fall, you can learn from it. And I think our guys understand that and we talk about that type (of) stuff all the time.”
Kuhl and Matz will both be looking to bounce back from rough losses last Thursday.
Kuhl allowed eight runs over two innings as the Pirates fell to the Arizona Diamondbacks, 9-3. The eight runs were the second-most Kuhl’s allowed as a big leaguer while the two innings pitched marked his second-shortest start.
Matz gave up five runs over 5 2/3 innings in the Mets’ 6-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies. The five earned runs were a season-high for Matz, who allowed three runs or fewer in his seven of his previous eight starts.
Kuhl took the defeat in his only previous start against the Mets on May 26, 2017, when he gave up five runs over 4 1/3 innings as the Pirates lost, 8-1.
Matz also lost his lone start against the Pirates on June 7, 2016, when he allowed two runs over five innings as the Mets fell, 3-1.