By: Stache Staff

Pregame: Pittsburgh Pirates (75-78) at New York Mets (70-83)

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The Mets look to match their longest winning streak of the season and win five straight at Citi Field in a single season for the first time since May of 2010 when they take on the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight in Flushing. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. and the game can be seen on SNY or heard, as always, on WFAN 660AM. Join the conversation on Twitter by following @dailystache or yours truly, @DevOnSports.

As they seek a fifth straight win, New York will send rookie Collin McHugh to the mound. McHugh takes the rotation place of fellow rookie Matt Harvey, who was shut down for the season after pitching seven one-hit innings last Wednesday against Philadelphia. McHugh will be opposed by veteran Wandy Rodriguez, whom the Pirates acquired at the trade deadline when they were still in the thick of the NL playoff hunt.

The southpaw Rodriguez will face a Mets lineup that has just two lefthanded hitters in it: red-hot first baseman Ike Davis and right fielder Mike Baxter. Justin Turner — he of the reverse platoon splits that Terry Collins doesn’t seem to notice — gets the start at second base.

Mets Lineup:

Tejada – Turner – Wright – Hairston – Davis – Shoppach – Torres – Baxter – McHugh

Small Sample Stache: Turner is hitting a respectable .273/.326/.373 this season, but that triple slash drops to an abysmal .231/.282/.295. Might as well start Daniel Murphy who is .270/.299/.360 against lefties in 2012.

Pirates Lineup:

Presley – Harrison – McCutchen – Jones – Sanchez – Alvarez – Barmes – Barajas – Rodriguez

Small Sample Stache: Though too late for Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes, Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen seems to have corrected his second half swoon in September. After hitting just .252 with a .693 OPS in August, McCutchen’s average is just a tad under .300 this month and he’s complimented it with a .392 on-base percentage while slugging at a .566 clip.

Pitching Matchup:
NYM: Collin McHugh (0-2, 3.86 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 14 K) – McHugh rejoins the rotation tonight to make his fourth start of his career. After a brilliant debut on August 23, McHugh didn’t make it out of the fifth inning in either of his next two starts, when he was beaten up by the Cardinals and Nationals and removed from the rotation.

He has since made two relief appearances and allowed just one run in three innings his last time out, relieving Jeremy Hefner, who didn’t record an out last Thursday against the Phillies. One of McHugh’s biggest issues since his promotion has been his arm slot, which has varied from fastball to curveball, tipping each pitch to the batters, who have been able to adjust and hit him accordingly. This bears watching again tonight.

PIT: Wandy Rodriguez (11-13, 3.76 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 129 K) – Rodriguez is enigmatic as they come in the majors, but he’s been mostly solid since the Pirates acquired him in July. He’s gone six or more innings in seven of nine starts since the trade and allowed five runs or fewer in five of his last six outings. But he only made it four innings in his last start and the Brewers hit him up for four runs on five hits with two walks.

Wandy’s only start against the Mets this year came back on May 2nd in Houston. The lefty allowed just one run on six hits in seven innings. Scott Hairston is 7-of-16 lifetime against Rodriguez with two homers, Ruben Tejada has three hits, including two doubles in four at-bats against him and David Wright is 6-for-21 vs. Wandy.

Stache Keys to the Game:

  • Keep Hitting – After scoring four runs total in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Phillies last week, the Mets have scored at least that many in three of their last four games. Keeping that up would be a good omen for tonight.
  • In the Slot – McHugh needs to figure out his pitch tipping issue if he wants any hope of sustained major league success, whether as a starter as a reliever. With 15 days since his last start, he’s had plenty of time to watch the tape and get it corrected.
  • A Fond Farewell – Fans aren’t exactly streaming through the turnstiles at Citi Field these days, but the few that keep coming deserve to see this team finish strong.

This Date in Mets History:
On this date, 30 years apart, the Mets bid adieu to two icons.

September 25, 1973 was Willie Mays night at Shea, the last Mets home night game of the season. Mays had played his final game on September 9th and missed the rest of the regular season with an injury. He came back for the World Series and went 2-for-7. Thirty years later at Shea, Bob Murphy called his final Mets game on September 25, 2003. The Mets lost 3-1 that night to the Pirates.

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