July 15, 2021

Whether they went to the All-Star Game, had a getaway or maybe enjoyed a staycation, players with the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates might feel like it’s been a while since they met.

Actually, it was just Sunday. Now they are back at it after the break with a three-game series that opens Friday night in Pittsburgh.

The teams split four games last weekend in New York, with the Pirates scoring a comeback 6-5 win in the finale Sunday.

The two clubs are in much different situations coming out of the break.

The Mets lead the National League East; the Pirates are last in the NL Central.

For New York, that made Sunday’s loss a tough one to sit on, given a blown 5-0 lead and a team meeting after the game.

“There are no heads hanging in (the clubhouse),” Mets right fielder Michael Conforto said.

Closer Edwin Diaz, who could not hold a 5-4 Mets lead in the ninth that game, would rather look at the bigger picture.

“We are in a good position right now,” he said. “We are going to try to win every game.”

For the Pirates, the second half starts with roster questions and perhaps a peek at the future.

All-Star second baseman Adam Frazier has been the subject of fairly intense trade speculation, and it’s possible Pittsburgh will move more than a few players in this rebuilding season.

While the Pirates could get players back from the injured list relatively soon, there will be a focus on some who have helped fill in.

Players such as first baseman John Nogowski, who in just seven games for Pittsburgh has become something of a cult hero, batting .500 with five RBIs. Players such as rookie infielder Rodolfo Castro, who had a one-game debut in April before coming up last week from Double-A Altoona.

In the recent series against the Mets, he was 3-for-9 in three games, with all three hits home runs, including two in Sunday’s comeback win.

“My plan is to stay here,” Castro said through an interpreter. “I love it here. I enjoy being a part of this clubhouse, this team. I love competing with them, and, more than anything, I love being able to be an asset to helping them win.”

The Pirates were impressed with Castro’s series.

“The kid came up from Double-A, he’s playing in New York, and the crowd’s into it — and he’s having fun,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. “That’s what we want him to do; we want him to have fun.”

In keeping with the flux surrounding the Pirates, they have not announced a starting pitcher for Friday.

For New York, right-hander Marcus Stroman (6-7, 2.75 ERA) is scheduled to start.

Stroman took the loss Saturday against Pittsburgh in the first game of a doubleheader, allowing three runs and five hits in five innings, with no walks and five strikeouts. Even though Stroman fell to 6-7, Mets manager Luis Rojas liked his performance.

“A regular (nine-inning) game, he probably gives us seven (innings) the way he was throwing the ball,” Rojas said.

In his career, Stroman is 0-2 with a 3.50 ERA in four games, three of them starts, against the Pirates.

-Field Level Media