(Sports Network) - The New York Mets can pull back to .500 and beyond beginning tonight, when they open a three-game weekend series against the team with the worst record in the major leagues - the Pittsburgh Pirates- at PNC Park.
New York, which fell to fourth in the National League's East Division with a 3-2 Thursday night loss at Houston, is 60-61 overall and 11 games off the pace of the East-leading Atlanta Braves.
The Pirates, meanwhile, have lost three straight to plummet to 40-81 on the season, 30 games behind the Cincinnati Reds in the NL's Central Division and 2 1/2 games worse than the American League's cellar dwellars, the Baltimore Orioles.
Pittsburgh lost, 4-2, on Thursday to close out a three-game series with the Florida Marlins.
Towering right-hander Mike Pelfrey takes the mound for the Mets in tonight's opener with designs on a second win in three starts after a four-decision skid.
The 6-foot-7, 230-pounder was 10-2 after a 5-2 win over Minnesota on June 25, but has won just once in nine starts since - a 1-0 gem against Colorado on Aug. 10 in which he allowed four hits and walked one in seven innings.
His one start since resulted in a tough-luck 3-1 loss to Philadelphia after he gave up just seven hits and three runs - walking none - in seven innings.
Pelfrey, the fifth overall pick in the 2005 draft, has split two career starts against the Pirates while allowing 16 hits and nine runs in 10 2/3 innings.
Righty Jeff Karstens goes for Pittsburgh while trying once again to end a drought that's seen him go winless since June 19. The 27-year-old San Diego native tossed six innings in a 6-4 interleague defeat of the Cleveland Indians that day, but is 0-7 since over 10 appearances.
Oddly, his earned run average has dropped slightly over the winless stretch - going from 4.72 to 4.57.
Karstens, who is 0-1 with a 5.27 ERA in three career matchups with the Mets, is 2-3 in 10 home appearances this season.
On Thursday in Pittsburgh, Alex Sanabia pitched into the eighth after his call-up from the minors and Florida downed the Pirates, 4-2, in the finale of a four-game set.
Paul Maholm (7-12) took the loss, giving up four runs on eight hits with two strikeouts and two walks over 5 2/3 frames. The Pirates have dropped 10 of 11.
Argenis Diaz went 2-for-3 with an RBI in defeat.
In Houston, Carlos Lee's three-run home run proved to be the difference, as the Astros edged New York to split a four-game set at Minute Maid Park.
Lee's round-tripper made a loser of Pat Misch (0-2), who surrendered just four hits and the three runs in six-plus frames. Jeff Francoeur and Chris Carter drove in the lone runs for the Mets, who have dropped four of six.
The Mets won four of their seven meetings with the Bucs a year ago.