MLB Insiders: New York Mets

Erik Bedard

The Pirates open a three-game series with the New York Mets on Monday night at PNC Park. A pair of lefties will face each other, Erik Bedard for the Bucs and Johan Santana for the Mets.

David Wright didn't play in any of the New York Mets' eight games against Pittsburgh last season. The Pirates probably aren't looking forward to renewing acquaintances this week.

Wright will try to help the Mets win consecutive games for the first time in nearly two weeks when they open a three-game series against the Pirates on Monday night.

Even an illness barely slowed Wright down over the weekend. The third baseman sat out New York's shutout loss to Toronto on Saturday, then went 2 for 4 with two RBIs, a double and a walk in a 6-5 win Sunday, raising his major-league leading batting average to .412.

Wright didn't face Pittsburgh in 2011 due to injury. While his .264 average versus the Pirates is tied for his lowest against an NL opponent, he put together an eight-game hitting streak against them from June 4, 2009-Sept. 14, 2010, batting .367 in that span.

The Mets (22-19) earned the badly needed victory Sunday after losing four of five.

Johan Santana (1-2, 2.89 ERA) looks to continue his strong pitching Monday after yet another outing in which he was victimized by a lack of run support and the bullpen blowing the lead for a second straight start.

The left-hander gave up two runs and struck out five in 6 2-3 innings of a 6-3 loss to Cincinnati on Wednesday, departing with the Mets up 3-2.

Santana has gotten 2.7 runs of support per game - 10th worst in the NL.

He is 2-2 with a 1.96 ERA against the Pirates, losing the last two times he faced them despite giving up five runs in 14 innings. The Mets scored one run in each outing.

He'll be facing a Pirates team that has struck out at least 12 times in three straight games, including 17 in a 4-3 loss to Detroit on Sunday.

Pittsburgh (19-22) was one-hit by Justin Verlander on Friday and is batting .191 in the last 11 games while posting double-digit strikeout totals seven times.

Erik Bedard (2-5, 3.07) has received even less offensive help than Santana, with a run support average of 2.6.

Bedard didn't help his own cause against Washington on Wednesday, though, surrendering three solo homers and four runs in six innings of a 7-4 loss. He left his previous start after eight pitches because of back spasms but said it wasn't a factor.

The left-hander made his only start against the Mets in 2006, allowing three runs in six innings of a 6-3 victory while with Baltimore.

New York and Pittsburgh split their eight meetings last season.

The Mets may not have realized what they had when they asked Mike Baxter to battle Adam Loewen this spring for a job on their bench. Baxter won that competition relatively easily, and has since established himself as one of the best pinch-hitters in the Major Leagues.

Baxter received a rare start in the outfield Sunday against the Blue Jays and responded with a three-hit performance in a 6-5 win over the Blue Jays. The Queens native doubled, tripled and singled in his first three at-bats against Jays starter Henderson Alvarez, falling a home run short of the cycle.

"I've just been feeling good off the bench, and when I'm starting I'm trying to put together good, quality at-bats," Baxter said. "I'm just taking every at-bat as an individual one and trying to focus for that one."

Baxter will not receive too many starts given the Mets' crowded outfield situation, especially once regular left fielder Jason Bay returns from the disabled list. But his most valuable skill set may be coming off the bench, anyway. Though the best pinch-hitters tend to be aging stars at the back ends of their careers, the 27-year-old Baxter has taken well to the role despite limited Major League experience.

In 21 pinch-hit plate appearances, Baxter has recorded a league-leading eight hits and drawn three walks, knocking in six runs. Manager Terry Collins has raved about Baxter's approach and preparation in those situations, and said he will look to give him more playing time going forward.

If nothing else, Baxter appears to have landed himself a permanent big league job with the team he grew up rooting for. Baxter is from the Whitestone neighborhood of Queens, an easy drive from Citi Field, and played his high school ball at nearby Archbishop Molloy.

Notes, Quotes

RHP Miguel Batista was placed on the disabled list Sunday with a lower back strain. Batista left Saturday's game after two innings due to the injury. He said Sunday morning that he felt much better, but the Mets were not willing to play short-handed given their heavy reliance on their bullpen in recent games.

RHP Chris Schwinden was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo to take Batista's roster spot, though his stay with the Mets may be temporary. The team will make another roster move to add a fifth bench player prior to Monday's game in Pittsburgh, with Schwinden being the logical candidate to head back down to the minors.

3B David Wright returned to the lineup Sunday following a one-game absence, doubling in his first at-bat to pass Jose Reyes for second in franchise history with his 1,301st hit. Wright, who had been battling illness all weekend, was so sick Saturday that he was unavailable even to pinch-hit. But the league's leading hitter reported to the Rogers Centre in better health Sunday, starting at third base against the Blue Jays.

1B Ike Davis finished 1-for-5 Sunday with a double and an RBI. Manager Terry Collins indicated prior to the game that the team might consider sending Davis to the minors if he does not begin hitting soon. Davis is batting .163 with a .221 on-base percentage this season.

RHP Frank Francisco put the first two runners he faced on base in the ninth inning, but struck out the next three in succession to record his 10th save in 12 chances. The struggling Francisco had received a vote of confidence from Collins early last week.

By The Numbers: 101—Miles per hour Bobby Parnell reached with his fastball in the eighth inning Sunday. Frank Francisco also hit 98 on the radar gun.

Quote To Note: "Because they loved me, and I left." —Mets closer Frank Francisco, on why Blue Jays fans booed him during the ninth inning. Francisco pitched for the Jays in 2011. Recommended Stories

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