Pirates Pull Into Port

Don’t look now folks, but the Mets are above .500, and have won their last four games, all of which were against division rivals Braves and Phillies. A week ago, Mets fans everywhere were scratching their heads wondering how short of expectations this team was going to fall. Baseball is a funny game, and the baseball season is a long one.

This weekend, the Mets welcome in the fourth place Pittsburgh Pirates. This is a Pirates team that has lost nine of its last ten games. Pittsburgh is playing .500 ball at home while posting a 5-9 record in Away games. We can only hope that the Mets bring the drive and progression we’ve seen over the last week, and not “play down” to a lesser team like they have so many times in the past.

Friday night will feature the return of Jon Niese taking Oliver Perez’s spot in the rotation. Niese has struggled so far this year pitching for AAA Buffalo. However, Niese has a good fastball and the makings of a tremendous curveball. If he can show the poise he’s showed before, he could put the Mets in a position to win against former Yankee pitcher, Scott Karstens. Karstens has had a rough start, going 1-1 with a 5.85 ERA this year.

Saturday, the Mets will face Paul Maholm, the best and most consistent starter of the Pirates rotation. Maholm will face up with a John Maine who has started to find himself and show the fire that he needs to overpower hitters with his fastball.

Sunday will feature Livan Hernandez and Ian Snell. The Mets will need to be patient with Snell who has been walking people left and right this season.

The Mets will need to continue to make steps forward in their offensive production. This week, David Wright has seemingly found his stroke while Jose Reyes continues to flounder at the plate. Thursday night, they both went deep against Jaime Moyer. While I’m happy to see Wright find his power stroke, I always get concerned when Reyes goes yard, thinking that he is going to start uppercutting the ball. An argument could be made that Citi Field was created for players like Jose Reyes. It’s a speedster’s paradise, and Reyes hasn’t been utilizing its assets.

The Pirates hitters have shown some pop, but haven’t been able to put up the numbers needed to get the win. Adam La Roche and Nate McLouth are the power threats to watch out for. But playing at Citi Field, the Mets should pay close attention to leadoff hitter Nyjer Morgan with his seven steals on the year as well as Freddy Sanchez with his .321 BA and 13 doubles on the season.

The Mets should walk away with at least two wins this weekend as the Pirates come in to port.

Arrrgh LGM.