Pirates-Mets Preview

Riding the league’s most productive offense over the past three weeks to the top of the NL East, the New York Mets are already talking about the playoffs.

A three-game series with a potential postseason opponent could build that confidence.

The red-hot Mets go for an eighth straight home win Friday night in their first meeting with the Pittsburgh Pirates since being swept three months ago.

New York (63-52) has surged past Washington into the division lead behind a 14-4 stretch, during which it’s averaging an NL-best 5.6 runs. It averaged 2.8 in its previous 20 games, winning nine.

The increased production compliments a pitching staff that ranks second in the majors with a 3.18 ERA.

"I think we’d be a tough team in the playoffs," said Kelly Johnson, who had a solo homer and a pair of RBI doubles in Thursday’s 12-3 win over Colorado.

The Mets outscored the Rockies 23-5 to sweep the four-game set and match St. Louis’ major league-leading 42 home victories. They’re trying to move 12 games over .500 for the first time since finishing 2008 at 89-73.

The Mets, however, have lost 12 of the past 16 meetings with Pirates (66-46) and were outscored 21-4 while dropping all three in Pittsburgh from May 22-24.

"Looking forward to it. Hopefully we can even that out," said Curtis Granderson, who homered and drove in three runs Thursday.

The Pirates, who hold the NL’s first wild-card spot, are looking to build on Thursday’s 10-5 win at NL Central-leading St. Louis, ending an eight-game losing streak at Busch Stadium.

"You try not to make things too important, but this was big for us," said second baseman Neil Walker, who came a homer shy of the cycle while adding two RBIs.

Andrew McCutchen is hitting .429 with three homers and 11 RBIs in the last eight games. He’s a .338 career hitter against the Mets, going 6 for 10 with two homers, two doubles, four RBIs and as many runs in May.

J.A. Happ, acquired from Seattle at the trade deadline, gets the ball after his last turn was skipped due to off days. He surrendered four runs in 4 1-3 innings of a 5-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs in his Pirates debut Aug. 4.

The left-hander, who hasn’t faced the Mets since 2012, is 2-1 with a 2.93 ERA in five starts on six or more days of rest over the past two seasons.

New York is turning to Bartolo Colon (10-11, 4.76 ERA), who is 1-7 with a 5.30 ERA over his last nine starts. He allowed four runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings of Sunday’s 4-3 loss at Tampa Bay.

The right-hander gave up five runs in six innings of a loss at Pittsburgh on June 29, 2014 – in his last matchup – after winning the two previous meetings by allowing one run in 14 1-3 innings.

A stiff back could land Lucas Duda on disabled list if he’s out for a fourth straight game. He didn’t feel up to playing Thursday after taking medication.

"There’s a concern," Terry Collins said. "The level’s 5. Defcon 5."

Duda is hitting .375 with nine homers and 12 RBIs in his past nine home games. He’s 4 for 12 with three homers and four RBIs in the last four home meetings with Pittsburgh.