(SportsNetwork.com) – The New York Mets will come to work with a slightly different look on Tuesday night, when they meet the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second game of a three-game series at Citi Field.
The Mets were 5-3 losers in Monday’s opener and announced after the game that they’d dismissed hitting coach Dave Hudgens and released relief pitcher Jose Valverde.
New York has lost nine of 12 games since May 14.
“When you struggle the way we’ve struggled offensively, a finger obviously gets pointed,” third baseman David Wright said. “A lot of times that finger gets pointed unfairly.”
Valverde allowed four runs while retiring just two batters in Monday’s loss, which swelled his earned run average for the season to an unsightly 5.66.
Pittsburgh starter Edinson Volquez snapped a five-start skid in his last outing on Thursday, scattering three hits and allowing a single run in six innings to defeat Washington, 3-1.
Still, he’s winless on the road this season — 0-2 with a 5.89 ERA in three starts — and hasn’t won away from home in his last seven tries, while going 0-5 with a 6.39 ERA.
He’s also never won at Citi Field, instead posting a 6.32 ERA with an 0-3 record.
New York counters with lefty Jonathon Niese, who defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-3, in his most recent home start on Thursday while outdueling Dodgers ace Zack Greinke.
Niese has surrendered three runs or less in 14 consecutive home outings and hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in 13 straight starts anywhere.
He’s won two of three career decisions against Pittsburgh, but was battered for eight runs in 4 1/3 innings while losing an 11-2 verdict to the Pirates last May.
On Monday, Gaby Sanchez’s clutch single in the ninth drove in the go-ahead run and capped off a come-from-behind win for the Pirates.
Neil Walker lined a one-out single and Andrew McCutchen drew a walk to put two on for Sanchez, who smacked a fastball off Valverde (1-1) that plated Walker. McCutchen came around to score the eventual deciding run after Curtis Granderson’s throw home was off target with Valverde not backing up catcher Juan Centeno. Russell Martin made it 5-2 with a double to center.
Valverde came into the eighth inning with a 2-1 lead and two outs to try and secure a four-out save.
Tony Watson (5-0), who has made 13 straight scoreless appearances, pitched the eighth for the Pirates, winners of five of their last six.
Pittsburgh was 5-2 versus the Mets last season.