MLB: Mets seek turnaround against Pirates

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The New York Mets are starting to put themselves in a precarious position as they prepare to open a four-game series with the host Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.

All was well in New York when the Mets went 16-4 from June 3-28, but the Mets have lost four of six games, including a 1-0 setback against the Washington Nationals on Thursday.

New York finds itself in the thick of the National League wild-card race, but the Mets are paying close attention to how they fare over the next three weeks to determine whether they will be buyers or sellers at the July 30 trade deadline.

Mets left-hander Jose Quintana believes the current version of the team has what it takes to at least be in contention for a playoff spot.

“We’re in a really good race right now, so I think we need to focus on us,” Quintana said. “I just want to get ready every five days to compete, and let’s see what happens. But we’re doing good — we’re doing better — so if we can do better than better, that’s what we want.”

Consistently being in the win column again could help take some pressure off New York’s front office, and right-hander Luis Severino (5-2, 3.42 ERA) will attempt to get the Mets back on track when he starts on Friday.

Severino most recently came away with a no-decision against the Houston Astros on Sunday, when he gave up four runs on eight hits in seven innings.

In three career starts against Pittsburgh, Severino has been dominant, going 3-0 with a 0.53 ERA. He beat the Pirates on April 17 after throwing six innings and permitting just one run, which was unearned.

The Pirates will counter with star rookie Paul Skenes (4-0, 2.06 ERA), a right-hander who will be going up against New York for the first time in his career.

Skenes has rattled off four consecutive quality starts, with his latest coming against the Braves last Saturday. Although he didn’t factor into the decision, Skenes held Atlanta to one run and six hits in six innings.

Making Skenes’ line all the more impressive was the fact that the one run the 22-year-old surrendered came three pitches into his outing — a leadoff homer by Jarred Kelenic in the bottom of the first.

Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton thinks the start against the Braves is going to stick with Skenes for a while, but in a good way.

“I think it’s a big learning moment,” Shelton said. “He only gave up one run, and it was a leadoff homer to a lineup that’s pretty All-Star-studded. The fact that he was able to make an adjustment in game was really impressive.”

Like the Mets, the Pirates are losers of four of their past six games. Bryan Reynolds was one of the few bright spots of a 3-2, 10-inning loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday, with his solo shot in the fourth helping him pull out of a mini-slump that came on the heels of a 25-game hitting streak.

Reynolds went 0-for-8 in the two games immediately following the streak, but he is 3-for-9 in two games since.

Jeff McNeil had New York’s only hit on Thursday, a third-inning single, and everyone in the Mets’ lineup struck out at least once. New York hitters have combined to fan 44 times over the past four games.

–Field Level Media

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