Both the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates will have something to play for as the teams begin a three-game series tonight in Pittsburgh.
The Mets, of course, just want to win two of three in order to win an NL road series. They haven't done that this season, nor have they won consecutive NL road games.
The Pirates just want to win, period. Pittsburgh enters tonight's game with a record of 40-81, the worst mark in the majors. Their next loss will clinch them their 18th consecutive losing season dating back to 1993.
That means the Pirates have lost more games than they have won in 18 straight seasons. That's the most consecutive losing seasons in North American sports history. It's really puzzling for a team to not be able to turn things around for that long. The most wins the Pirates have had in this stretch is 79 back in 1997.
It's pretty embarrassing for the Mets to have to win their first NL road series against the Pirates, but they're in a lose-lose situation. If they do win the series, people will tease them. If they lose the series, people will bash them to no end.
The Mets know this may be their only chance to win an NL road series, the way their offense has been playing since the All-Star break. The Mets have now gone 10 straight games without scoring five runs or more.
The last time they did it was in a loss to the Phillies on August 8. In fact in that series in Philadelphia, the Mets lost two games, both while scoring five runs.
What will happen in this series?
Norris entered the game with a 5.42 ERA, and the Mets collected two hits off him, one coming from pitcher Pat Misch. Things don't look like they're about to change anytime soon.
To kick the series off in Pittsburgh, Mike Pelfrey will be on the mound for the Mets tonight. His last start came on Sunday night at Citi Field in the rain against the Phillies. He allowed three runs in seven innings, but his problem was control and the Phillies' running game.
In two of the three innings the Phillies scored they stole bases. Pelfrey also hit two batters in the game.
After a long rough stretch by Pelfrey, three of his last five starts have been decent. His sinker has had more bite, and his velocity has increased. He and the Mets can only hope for a strong finish to the season.
Pitching for the Pirates will be Jeff Karstens. The former Yankee has had a rough Major League career, with an ERA near five.
He made six straight relief appearances in May, but was reinserted back in the rotation on June 1. He has lost his last seven decisions, to fall from 2-2 to 2-9 on the season.
He had a bad start his last time out on Sunday in Houston. In 5.2 innings pitched, he allowed five runs on seven hits in a Pirates 8-2 loss.
After not starting last night, Carlos Beltran will be back in tonight's lineup. Catcher Rod Barajas came off the DL and started last night as well, but will probably sit in place of Josh Thole tonight.
The Mets need to win tonight to avoid having to win the last two games. The easiest way for them to win a series will be to win the first and third games, although a sweep wouldn't be bad either.
After tonight, the Mets will have Niese and Santana on the mound, so they do have a shot if they can just do a little hitting.
Mike Pelfrey vs. Pittsburgh (career)
1-1, 6.75 ERA, 10.2 IP, 16 hits, 4 BB, 4 SO
Jeff Karstens vs. New York (career)
0-1, 5.27 ERA, 13.2 IP, 17 hits, 3 BB, 6 SO
2009 season series (New York vs. Pittsburgh)
Mets won series 4-3.