A three-game road sweep of the team with baseball's worst offense put the New York Mets back atop the NL East. Another struggling offense awaits them in Pittsburgh.
The Mets will try to continue their stellar recent pitching against another weak lineup on Friday when they open a four-game series with the Pirates at PNC Park.New York (65-56) trailed the Philadelphia Phillies by two games in the East standings on Tuesday when it began a three-game set against the Washington Nationals. But the Phillies lost their final three games in Los Angeles en route to being swept in a four-game series, and the Mets got some excellent pitching in taking all three from the Nationals, giving New York a one-game lead over Philadelphia.The Mets scored 25 runs and allowed Washington just six in the series, which culminated with a 9-3 win on Thursday."That's been our weakness this year," center fielder Carlos Beltran said. "We've not been able to take advantage of teams under .500. This time, we really approached them the same way we approached the Phillies and the teams in contention."The Mets had been 3-7 in their last 10 games against teams under .500 before playing the Nationals.One of those losses came Monday against Pittsburgh (55-66) in a make-up game from a rainout in late April. New York led 5-1 after six innings, but the Pirates rallied for three in the seventh and three in the ninth off the much-maligned Mets' bullpen in a 7-5 win."We can't continue to perform this way late in the game," manager Jerry Manuel said after that loss. "We have to make some adjustments. I have to figure out what I have and who is willing to step up in those roles."New York's bullpen pitched 8 2-3 scoreless innings in Washington after being lit up by Pittsburgh.Aside from that late-inning rally, though, the Pirates' offense has been dismal recently. They've scored 24 runs in their last nine games and haven't had more than nine hits in that stretch. They had eight hits -- all singles -- in Thursday's 3-1 loss to Cincinnati."It was one of those nights where we didn't get the big hit like we have," manager John Russell said.Mike Pelfrey (10-8, 4.11 ERA) will try to keep the Pirates' lineup at bay on Friday in his first-ever outing against them. Pelfrey will probably just be happy he isn't facing the Marlins, whom he's lost to twice in his last three starts.He gave up seven hits and six runs in 4 2-3 innings on Sunday in an 8-2 loss, falling to 0-3 with a 10.66 ERA against Florida this season."I don't really care who it is, I don't like losing," Pelfrey told the Mets' official Web site. "I didn't perform today, and I didn't give the team a chance. From that standpoint, it's frustrating."Pelfrey is 4-3 with a 6.09 ERA on the road, and 6-5 with a 2.81 ERA at home.Jason Davis (1-1, 1.38) will make his second start since moving into the Pirates' rotation. The journeyman pitched well on Sunday at Philadelphia, giving up two unearned runs in six innings, and he didn't factor in the decision in Pittsburgh's 6-3 loss."He's thrown the ball well," Russell told the Pirates' official Web site. "I like what he did against an offensive (Phillies) team. He's got the weapons to pitch with."Pittsburgh has won eight off 11 at PNC Park against the Mets.