Although the New York Mets haven't been very consistent since the All-Star break, their success at home continues to please manager Jerry Manuel and keep the team competitive in a tight NL East race.
The Mets (62-55) close their seven-game homestand with a makeup game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday.New York and Pittsburgh (53-64) played a three-game series at Shea Stadium in April, but the opener was postponed because of rain. They split the next two games, with the Mets winning the second game 5-4 in 11 innings and the Pirates winning the finale 13-1.Although that series didn't end well, New York comes in Monday having won four of the first six games on this homestand, including two of three against Florida over the weekend. The series victory moved the Mets, who have the NL's second-best home record, a half-game ahead of the Marlins into second place in the NL East. New York still trails Philadelphia by two games."We just won back-to-back series here at home. ... We're playing solid baseball," Manuel told the Mets' official Web site following Sunday's 8-2 loss. "We can easily identify mistakes maybe in the strategy of the game, the execution of a pitch here or there, but I can't say that we've played inconsistent baseball."After opening the second half of the season with a 10-8 win over Cincinnati to extend their winning streak to 10 games, the Mets have gone 10-11. They are 8-4 at home during that stretch.New York hands the ball on Monday to Pedro Martinez (3-3, 5.79 ERA), as he makes his third start since being reinstated from the bereavement list. Martinez pitched 6 1-3 innings on Wednesday against the Padres, allowing three runs and four hits in a 4-2 loss.Martinez, who also has had two stints on the disabled list this season because of a hamstring strain, has just one win since June 15. He's 1-3 with a 6.06 ERA in the seven starts since, and has given up a total of five homers in his last two outings.The right-hander is 9-4 with a 2.97 ERA in 15 starts and four relief appearances against the Pirates. This is his first time facing them since 2006.Pittsburgh looks to avoid its third straight loss Monday. The Pirates are 2-6 since Aug. 1 after losing two of three to the Phillies over the weekend. They have averaged 2.9 runs in the last eight games.They took a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning Sunday, but the Phillies rallied with three runs in the bottom of the seventh and Pittsburgh finished with three errors in a 6-3 loss."We just made too many mistakes," Doug Mientkiewicz told the Pirates' official Web site. "When we play well, we can play with anyone. That's when we don't make mistakes."Zach Duke (4-10, 5.13) takes the mound for the Pirates on Monday.Duke has lost his last five starts and six consecutive decisions since beating Arizona on June 9. He pitched seven innings on Tuesday against the Diamondbacks, allowing two runs and four hits in a 3-1 loss."Zach keeps throwing like that, he's going to be fine," manager John Russell said.Duke is 2-0 with a 1.77 ERA in three starts against the Mets.The Mets are 8-3 against Pittsburgh at home since 2006.