May 17, 2012; Washington, D.C., USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) hits a solo home run in the sixth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. The Pirates defeated the Nationals 5 - 3. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

Series Preview: Mets @ Pirates

After a quick dip into interleague play for the first time in 2012, the Mets and Pirates go back to just a normal, National League showdown at PNC Park. Both teams have been struggling recently; New York is coming into this series after losing two of three to Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays, and going 4-6 in their last ten. The Pirates didn’t fare better against Prince Fielder and the Tigers, also losing two of three and going 5-5 in their last ten contests. Despite their recent struggles, both teams are currently sitting in third place in their division; the Mets are 22-19, tied with Miami for 3.5 games out of first place, while the Pirates are 19-22, only 3 games behind the division-leading Cardinals.

How they’re performing:

The rough showing against Toronto did not help New York’s team offensive statistics; however, they are still able to crack the top-10 in

May 07, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Mets left fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis (9) celebrates scoring with center fielder Andres Torres (56) and right fielder Lucas Duda (21) during the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

the MLB in both team batting average (.261) and team on-base percentage (.337). The offense has been led by the league’s hottest hitter, which is David Wright. He somehow was able to raise his average in the two games he played against the Blue Jays, and is now hitting .412. Daniel Murphy (.319) and Ruben Tejada (.305) are also hitting over .300, and Tejada is scheduled to rejoin the team in this series. Also, Mike Baxter (.390) has gotten hot in his limited time in the field.

As for pitching, it’s hard to believe that a team’s pitching statistics wouldn’t be negatively effected after giving up 14 runs in one game. Their 4.60 team ERA (27th in MLB) and 1.42 team WHIP (27th) put them among the worst in the league. Jonathon Niese has seen his ERA jump almost three full runs over his last few starts, Manny Acosta continues to underwhelm fans, and before his solid performance last night, Dillon Gee also saw a large jump in his ERA.

What’s so great about baseball? The Pittsburgh Pirates have a similar record to the Mets, yet they are the polar opposites. Their .217 team batting average is second-worst in the league, and their .269 OBP is dead-last in the MLB. Andrew McCutchen (.336) and Neil Walker (.261) are doing what they can to carry the offense, but it’s tough when four players (Clint Barmes, Jose Tabata, Alex Presley, and Pedro Alvarez) are hitting under .230 with over 100 at-bats so far in 2012.

On the flip side, Pittsburgh’s pitching staff is among some of the best in the league. Their 3.36 team ERA is 5th in baseball, while their 1.27 team WHIP is 12th in Major League Baseball. Erik Bedard and James McDonald have been spearheading this for the Bucs in the starting rotation with solid seasons thus far, Joel Hanrahan has done his thing with nine saves, and the bullpen is boasting three relievers (Juan Cruz, Brad Lincoln, and Jared Hughes) with 10+ apperances and an ERA of 1.25 or below.

Probable Pitching Match-ups:

After seeing his staff struggle in the first couple of games against the Blue Jays, Terry Collins has to be excited about his starting rotation turning over to the top, allowing Johan Santana to start things off for the Amazins. Santana has only registered one win in his last five quality starts, but is looking to get number six tonight while getting his second win this season. Dickey has also been consistent, spinning 19 quality starts in his last 20 appearances, and he’s looking to get revenge for taking the loss in his one appearance at PNC Park last year, even though he only gave up one run in eight innings. Jonathon Niese is coming off a nightmare start in Toronto, hoping to turn things around.

Johan Santana (NYM) 1-2, 2.89 ERA vs. Erik Bedard (PIT) 2-5, 3.07 ERA

R.A. Dickey (NYM) 5-1, 3.75 ERA vs. James McDonald (PIT) 3-2 2.68 ERA

Jonathon Niese (NYM) 2-2, 4.85 ERA vs. Charlie Morton (PIT) 2-4 4.35 ERA

Erik Bedard is taking the hill tonight in the opener for the Bucs, and has had a nice bounce back year in Pittsburgh so far, and has been able to stay consistent on the mound despite recent back spasms. James McDonald is having a stellar year so far, flirting with no-nos in two of his last five starts, and has struck out 44 hitters in his last 35 innings pitched. Charlie Morton will try to find some consistency with his sinker, as he has had an up-and-down year thus far.

Recent Head-to-Head results:

New York has gone head-to-head with the Pirates an even 700 times since their inception in 1962, and even though they have a losing record against Pittsburgh (336-362 all-time), the Mets have found some success more recently. In 2010, these two teams went up against each other seven times, with the Amazins coming away with six wins. These two didn’t begin their season series until the end of August, when they met at PNC Park for a three game set. New York took two of three, with Johan Santana taking the lone loss against Zach Duke in a 2-1 pitchers’ duel. When Pittsburgh made it’s yearly trip to Flushing, the Mets made sure it was an unpleasant one, sweeping a four game set. There was one rain shortened game that went five innings, the longest contest lasted 10 innings, and New York outscored Pittsburgh by over 20 runs (37-15). Mike Pelfrey was the only pitcher to record two wins in this season set.

Last season, Clint Hurdle was in his first year and had his squad playing the best they have since the early 2000s. In eight head-to-head contests, the two teams won four games each, splitting four-game sets in New York and in Pittsburgh. The Mets once against outscored the Pirates, but this time the deficit was a lot less (38-32), and neither team was able to win more than two games in a row. Joel

Hanrahan saved two games for Pittsburgh, Dillon Gee won twice, and R.A. Dickey lost two games last year.

In addition to this series, Clint Hurdle’s squad will be making their way to Citi Field in the season’s second to last regular season series, a four game set between the two, scheduled to start on September 24th.

What to watch for:

The Mets have hit 25 home runs as a team so far in 2012. No, that wasn’t a typo…25. That’s good for second-to-last in all of Major League Baseball. With two great starting pitching match-ups in the first two games of this series, let’s see if New York can flip on the power switch and get something going. Ike Davis is the man that everyone is looking towards to reach for the switch. He leads the team with 5 home runs, but hasn’t been able to hit his weight so far this year (.163 BA).

For Pittsburgh, the one bright spot out in the field for them has been their young superstar, Andrew McCutchen. He signed a five-year extension before the season started, and he’s already shown Pittsburgh that he’s worth the investment (.336/.395/.550), and leads the team in all batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. If the Mets are going to win this series, they need to figure out a way to keep this guy off the bases.

Next Mets Game View full schedule »
Friday, Sep 1919 Sep7:35at Atlanta BravesBuy Tickets

Tags: Andrew McCutchen Daniel Murphy David Wright Erik Bedard James McDonald Johan Santana Jonathon Niese Matt Musico Mets Pirates New York Mets R.A. Dickey Rising Apple Ruben Tejada Series Preview

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