The Pittsburgh Pirates' 2012 quest to end their losing ways is down to its final 10 games.
The Pirates must win six of their remaining contests to avoid a 20th straight losing season heading into Monday night's opener of a four-game road set with the New York Mets.
Pittsburgh (75-77) was as high as 16 games over .500 at 63-47 and well within reach of a postseason spot before resembling the team that has turned in baseball's worst record over the previous two decades. Its 19 straight losing campaigns are a record for North American professional sports.
There are still positives for the Pirates to build upon, starting with Andrew McCutchen. The All-Star center fielder is in position to win the batting title with a .336 average since San Francisco's suspended Melky Cabrera has removed himself from contention.
McCutchen has hit six homers in his last 14 games, but the Pirates have lost 11 of them to take themselves out of playoff contention. Pittsburgh won 8-1 at Houston on Sunday to avoid a three-game sweep to baseball's worst team.
New York (69-83), meanwhile, swept three home games from Miami over the weekend after entering that series on a five-game slide. Ruben Tejada singled home the winning run with two outs in the ninth inning of Sunday's 3-2 victory and David Wright hit a two-run homer.
The Mets took two of three at PNC Park from May 21-23, the Pirates will be out to improve upon their 2-9 all-time mark at Citi Field.
Pittsburgh rookie Kyle McPherson (0-1, 2.25 ERA) will make his second career start after replacing the demoted James McDonald on Wednesday and yielding two runs over 4 1-3 innings in a 3-1 loss to Milwaukee.
The right-hander, who began the year sidelined due to shoulder inflammation, could throw more than the 71 pitches he fired last week.
The Mets will also turn to a right-hander in Jenrry Mejia (0-1, 9.00), who will make his second 2012 start and first since giving up five runs over three-plus innings as he was charged with a 9-6 loss at Milwaukee on Sept. 15. He worked a scoreless inning of relief five days later in his only appearance since.
Mejia's lone career start against the Pirates came Sept. 15, 2010. He gave up one unearned run over 2 1-3 innings in an 8-7 win before leaving with a right shoulder strain.
The Mets have at least offered a mini-spurt the last few days to erase the stench of their worst loss of the season on Thursday. Their weekend sweep of the equally hapless Miami Marlins was capped by a walk-off single by Ruben Tejada, the 3-2 win providing a reminder of that cheerier time in the first half when it seemed the Mets provided one clutch hit after the other.
Coupled with Saturday's victory that featured R.A. Dickey's 19th win of the season, Citi Field has shown a lot more life than it did when a sparse crowd watched the Mets get embarrassed in their 16-1 loss to the Phillies on Thursday.
Now there are just four home games left for the Mets, capped by Thursday's home finale with Dickey going for his 20th win.
In the meantime, they also have David Wright shooting for the franchise hits record and he finally crept closer with a home run Sunday. Wright broke a hitless streak of eight at-bats with the two-run shot in the first, giving him 1,415 career hits. That left him three from Ed Kranepool's team record, meaning he had a decent shot to give Mets fans one more thing to cheer after a second half full of gloom.
It may not be a lot, but it was a lot more for Mets fans to look forward to than they had entering the weekend, when the talk was about whether their team had quit.
SS Ruben Tejada has been slumping offensively and struggled in the field and at the plate Sunday, but he got to enjoy a big moment with his walk-off single in the ninth. Tejada stranded the go-ahead run on base in the seventh and made an error the next inning. But his bases-loaded single in the ninth gave the Mets a 3-2 win and a sweep of the Marlins at home to cap his 1-for-5 day.
RHP Chris Young gave up just one earned run (two overall) in six innings but got a no-decision in the Mets' 3-2 win over the Marlins on Sunday. Young allowed just five hits while striking out five and walking two, but he left the game with the score tied 2-2. The Mets won it in the ninth on Ruben Tejada's walk-off single.
RHP Frank Francisco, who hasn't pitched in a week, mostly due to a sore right elbow, will be shut down for a few more days, manager Terry Collins said. Francisco was available Friday, Collins said, but there wasn't a save situation. The manager said his closer told him before Saturday's game he had again felt a problem with the elbow. Collins said team doctors reported no structural damage and think it's tendinitis; they prescribed medicine and rest. Francisco told reporters he'd like to pitch again before the end of the season.
3B David Wright snapped a 0-for-8 string with a home run in his first at-bat Sunday, his 19th homer of the season. The hit left Wright three hits from tying Ed Kranepool's franchise record of 1,418. Wright finished the game 1-for-4 with two RBI.
RHP Jenrry Mejia will start Monday's game against the Pirates to begin the four-game series that will close out the Mets' home season. Mejia (0-1, 9.00 ERA) gave up five runs on six hits in three innings on Sept. 15 in his last start, which was his first in two years.
By The Numbers:
1,415—Career hits for David Wright after his two-run homer in the first Sunday broke a 0-for-8 string. It put him three hits from tying Ed Kranepool's franchise record of 1,418.
Quote To Note:
"It's really important for me and for the team. Everyone wants to finish strong and have the team finish strong. So you've got to keep your head up and push hard every day."
—SS Ruben Tejada, after hitting a walk-off single in the Mets' 3-2 win Sunday, for their third straight victory.