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.