The New York Mets have recently made a history of not winning games over opponents they should have no problem with. For the most part, however, 2009 has been a different story. A recent sweep of the Washington Nationals as well as taking two of three from the pesky Florida Marlins in the month of May have been just what the doctor ordered.
The Mets have already swept the Pirates at Citi Field this season, scoring 25 runs off Pittsburgh's pitching staff in the process. However, the Mets look a little bit different since the last time these two teams got together.
Carlos Delgado, who was a big part of that series, remains out of the lineup with a balky hip. But, Gary Sheffield has filled-in admirably for the veteran slugger, improving his batting average 81 points in the final two-and-a-half weeks of May.
The series will not be a walk in the park (no pun intended), as the Pirates have a couple of key guys to keep an eye on.
Nyjer Morgan had a down month, but looked impressive in the last series in New York. Morgan has great speed and can be a real threat on the basepaths. In other words, he’s a poor man’s Jose Reyes.
Jack Wilson has yet to get un-tracked since his return from injury and is the type of player that could break out at any moment. Let’s not forget about Freddy Sanchez, the 2006 National League batting champion, as well as Nate McLouth, Pittsburgh’s lone all-star last season.
The series gets going tonight with the first pitch at 7:05 PM—second pitch shortly after.
It will be Livan Hernandez on the hill for the Mets, coming off two outstanding starts. His most recent was a 127-pitch, nine inning complete game against the Washington Nationals, after which Hernandez boasted he could have thrown 150 pitches.
Pittsburgh counters with Ian Snell, who has had a rough go of it so far as he sits at 1-5 with an ERA of 5.43. However, he’s got some talent and has put it together at times this year and in past years. His control has not been quite as sharp as it normally is this season, and his strikeout numbers have taken a slight dip as well.
Tuesday will feature another duel for Johan Santana, as he draws the most difficult opponent of the series in young Zach Duke. Duke was excellent in the month of May, and the Pirates have been waiting for this since his electric debut in the 2005 season, when he went 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA. Santana will need his ‘A’ game as Duke will be sure to provide a challenge.
The final two games feature a pair of former Yankees as the probable starters. Ross Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens, both cast-offs from the 2007 Yankees’ rotating door of starters, have found some new life in the Steel City.
Mike Pelfrey and Tim Redding will go for the Mets in the last two games. Pelfrey continues to be near-electric while Redding is still looking to find himself on the mound.
Left-handed pitcher and former Pirate Oliver Perez was scratched from his most recent start in AAA Buffalo due to right knee inflammation.
The Mets will continue to be without Jose Reyes and Alex Cora for this series, however both could be back sooner rather than later.
Mark Krulish is a contributor to HowBoutThemMets.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org