A seemingly soft September schedule has turned out to be anything but for the National League East-leading New York Mets — and that was before the rebuilding Pittsburgh Pirates arrived in town looking to construct their longest winning streak in more than three years.
The suddenly skidding Mets will look to avoid their season-high fourth straight loss Thursday night, when New York hosts the Pirates in the opener of a four-game series.
Carlos Carrasco (14-6, 3.80 ERA) is scheduled to pitch for the Mets against JT Brubaker (3-11, 4.36) in a battle of right-handers.
The Mets absorbed the final loss in a three-game sweep at the hands of the visiting Cubs on Wednesday night, when Chicago scored six first-inning runs in a 6-3 victory.
The Pirates matched their season-best winning streak Wednesday afternoon, when they won their fourth straight by completing a sweep of the host Cincinnati Reds in a 10-4 rout.
The Mets never led the Cubs — who are 61-82 — in taking their first three-game sweep and just their fourth three-game skid of the year. New York last went an entire season without losing more than three consecutive games in 1972.
The lone good news for the Mets (89-55) this week was the second-place Atlanta Braves enduring similar struggles against the sub-.500 San Francisco Giants. The Braves (88-55) also dropped two of three to the Giants, which allowed New York to maintain its half-game lead in the race for the division title and second bye in the NL playoffs.
“The other teams, they’re big-league ballclubs,” Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor said. “Their front offices at the (beginning) of the year, they try to put the best team together as they can. And it’s not for them to lose 100 games.”
But the hiccup against the Cubs is becoming a trend for the Mets, who are 5-7 in their last 12 games, all of which have come against teams out of the playoff picture. After losing two of three to the Washington Nationals on Labor Day weekend, New York went 2-1 against both the Pirates and the Miami Marlins before hosting the Cubs.
“They played better than us, so hats off to them,” Lindor said of the Cubs. “Would I like to win two out of three or three out of three against them — or at least one? Of course. But we’ve been winning series. We didn’t win the one against the Nationals and we won the other two. And this one obviously didn’t go our way. It’s part of the game.”
The Pirates, thanks to their winning streak, might be able to avoid a second straight 100-loss season. Pittsburgh (55-88) outscored the Reds 23-8 in winning four straight for the first time since July 9-12.
The Pirates, whose sweep of the Reds included two victories in a doubleheader on Tuesday, haven’t won more than four straight games since a five-game run from April 14-18, 2019.
“We played a full 36 innings,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “We played well. Sweeping a doubleheader is hard. Sweeping a series is hard.”
Carrasco earned the win in his most recent start, when he allowed one run over six innings as the Mets beat the Marlins 11-3 on Saturday. He is 1-0 with a 3.24 ERA in three career starts against the Pirates.
Brubaker didn’t factor into the decision on Saturday after surrendering three runs over six innings in the Pirates’ 7-5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. He is 0-1 with a 10.38 ERA in two starts against the Mets.
–Field Level Media