While the New York Mets managed to pull out a dramatic victory, their struggles against left-handers continued in the opener of this four-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citi Field.
That doesn't bode well for Friday night's matchup against southpaw Wandy Rodriguez, who has handled the Mets fairly easily lately.Mike Baxter provided the heroics for the second time in three days, delivering a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning Thursday to lift the Mets to a 3-2 win.Baxter also came through with a 10th-inning pinch-hit Tuesday to beat the Chicago White Sox."Very enjoyable. Good feeling," said Baxter, who is 5 for 7 with a double, triple and two RBIs over his last four games.The Mets, though, haven't had many timely hits lately, going 20 for 101 (.198) with runners in scoring position and batting .198 in their last 15 games overall.They've been even more anemic against left-handers with a .192 average over their last nine games after going 5 for 24 with one extra-base hit against Pittsburgh's Jeff Locke and Tony Watson on Thursday.That's a trend New York (14-17) hopes to reverse against Rodriguez (2-2, 4.02 ERA), who is 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA in his last four starts versus New York.Rodriguez, though, will try to avoid dropping a third consecutive start and help prevent the Pirates (18-16) from their fifth loss in six games.After going 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA and no homers allowed in his first three starts, Rodriguez has gone 0-2 with a 7.63 ERA and been taken deep six times in his past three outings.The Mets counter with Shaun Marcum, who makes his third start after beginning the season on the DL with a neck injury and right biceps tendinitis.Marcum (0-2, 7.20) allowed three runs and six hits over 4 1/3 innings of a 7-5 win at Atlanta on Friday, and hasn't made it out of the fifth inning in either of his first two starts.The right-hander, however, has been tough on Pittsburgh with a 2-2 record and 2.65 ERA in six career starts.Clutch hitting also has been a problem lately for the Pirates, who went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position Thursday and are 4 for 45 in those situations over the last six games.Andrew McCutchen is 2 for 14 against Marcum but has been hot lately, batting .469 with two homers and five RBIs in his last eight contests.Pedro Alvarez, who is hitting .182 on the season, went 2 for 3 with his sixth home run Thursday after going hitless in his previous 14 at-bats."He continues to take better swings," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We all believe it's just a matter of time, and obviously, he's waited longer than he wants to. But we feel it's coming, absolutely."Ruben Tejada, who had a seven-game home hitting streak snapped Thursday, is 5 for 7 with two doubles against Rodriguez.While David Wright is off to a 1 for 8 start to the homestand, he's 7 for 24 with a homer and two doubles in this matchup.