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|NEW YORK — New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway has been using some variation of the term “sync up” so often lately Lorenzo Carter Color Rush Jersey , he sounds like an early 1990s music critic discussing Milli Vanilli. At least on Monday the Mets will face another out-of-sorts team whose fortunes are sinking faster than those of an exposed one-album wonder.
Two squads enduring a miserable June will meet when the Mets host the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opener of a three-game series at Citi Field. Seth Lugo (2-2, 2.85 ERA) is scheduled to pitch for New York against Jameson Taillon (4-6, 4.03 ERA) in a battle of right-handers.
Both teams suffered the final loss of a three-game sweep Sunday, when the Mets gave up seven solo homers in falling to the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers, 8-7, in 11 innings and the host Pirates dropped a 3-0 decision to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The losses ensured the Mets (31-44) and Pirates (36-41) will enter Monday with the worst June records in the National League. New York is 4-17 since the calendar flipped while Pittsburgh is 7-14.
The nosedives have all but ended once-robust playoff hopes. The Mets, who opened the season 11-1, are 12 1/2 games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East and 10 1/2 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies in the race for the second wild card.
The Mets opened June in a historic offensive slump in which they scored just 20 runs in 12 games from June 1-15. New York has scored 47 runs in its last eight games but has lost three games in which it scored at least seven runs.
“We just can’t sync up exactly what we’re trying to do every day,” Callaway said Sunday. He also used the sync up expression following Thursday’s 6-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies.
“If we swing the bats, we give up seven homers,” Callaway said Sunday. “If we pitch and swing the bats good, our defense isn’t quite there. It’s kind of been the whole season — we’re not syncing up all the components that we need to sync up to win some ballgames. We did that early in the season.”
The Pirates are uttering the same laments. Through 43 games, Pittsburgh led the NL Central with a 26-17 record and ranked fifth in the majors in runs scored (216).
Since then, though, the Pirates have gone an NL-worst 10-24 while scoring just 123 runs, the fewest in the NL and the fourth-fewest in the majors.
“At the beginning of the season, pitching was clicking, hitting was clicking,” Pirates pitcher Trevor Williams told reporters after he took the loss Sunday, when he allowed three runs over six innings. “We’re starting to get apart from each other and we’re hitting a skid at the same time.”
Lugo will be looking to snap a two-start slump Monday. He didn’t factor into the decision last Wednesday, when he gave up six runs (three earned) over three innings as the Mets fell to the Rockies, 10-8.
Lugo has given up 11 runs (eight earned) over eight innings in his last two starts after tossing 13 straight scoreless innings in three games (two starts) from May 31-June 10.
Taillon took the loss last Tuesday, when he allowed three runs over five innings as the Pirates fell to the Milwaukee Brewers, 3-2. He has alternated wins with losses in four June starts.
Lugo has never faced the Pirates. Taillon is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two career starts against the Mets. He made both starts consecutively to open his big league career in 2016 and carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning of the second start on June 14.
James Shields of the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds play in opposite leagues and rarely see each other, yet they currently have much in common.
Now that they’re starting to make something out of what appeared to be a totally lost season, they’d like to keep it going.
The Reds got off to the worst start in baseball at 8-27, one so bad that getting to .500 looked to be as much of a challenge as winning a division title would be for most teams.
But when the Reds (36-48) take on the right-handed Shields and the White Sox on Monday night at Great American Ball Park, in the teams’ first matchup since 2015, they’ll be one of the majors’ hottest clubs. They’ve won 11 of 14 after taking the final two games of a four-game weekend series against the Milwaukee Brewers, and interim manager Jim Riggleman now has a 33-33 record for a last-place team.
Considering that Riggleman took over a Reds team that was 3-15 under former manager Bryan Price, that’s something of an accomplishment. And the Reds own a 6-1 record in interleague games.
“We know we can play with these teams that are in first place in their division B.J. Hill Color Rush Jersey ,” Riggleman said.
They’re winning now in grand fashion, too. Jose Peraza hit the team’s major league-leading ninth grand slam Sunday in an 8-2 win over the Brewers, their second in two games (pitcher Michael Lorenzen hit a pinch-grand slam Saturday) and sixth in 17 games. They’ve already tied a club season record.
“We’ve been getting better at-bats … and we’ve happened to have men on base,” Riggleman said.
Cincinnati starter Matt Harvey pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings before being lifted after a rain delay, and the Reds dealt Brewers rookie Freddy Peralta (3-1), who gave up three runs in five innings, his first major league loss. Peralta allowed only one hit in seven shutout innings against the Kansas City Royals in his previous start.
“That’s probably the best I’ve felt since 2013,” said Harvey (4-5), who won his third straight start.
Shields (3-9), likewise, is beginning to see a ray of sunshine in what previously was a gloomy season. He’s coming off his best start of the year, pitching seven shutout innings and giving up four hits Wednesday in a 6-1 win over the Minnesota Twins. It was his 12th quality start of the season, or five more than he had all of last season.
Shields still isn’t the pitcher that won 13 or more games seven times from 2008 to 2015, but it hasn’t helped that he’s pitching for a team that’s off to the second worst start in franchise history. He has allowed a respectable six earned runs in his last four starts, and twice yielded one or no runs while lasting at least seven innings.
At age 36, Shields is making adjustments to compensate for his decreased velocity, yet has pitched at least six innings in 12 of his last 13 starts for a last-place team.
“My body’s feeling really good this year, and this is kind of what I’ve done my whole career,” Shields told reporters after the game against the Twins. “I strive to go as deep as I possibly can in games and so far it’s been good.
“I’m not throwing as hard as I used to. If I were to throw over the top, I’d still throw a little harder than I am right now. (But) at the end of the day, I’m feeling really good with my delivery right now, my mechanics. It’s been a lot of fun making these adjustments.”
Shields goes against Reds right-hander Luis Castillo (5-8), who was 1-3 with a 6.75 ERA in five June starts. He retired the first 11 batters he faced Wednesday at Atlanta, only to give up four quick runs on a walk and five consecutive singles, although the Reds came back to win 6-5.
Castillo is 0-1 in two starts against American League clubs this season, giving up eight runs in six innings. He has never faced the White Sox.
Shields is 18-18 with a 4.57 ERA in interleague play and 0-2 in two career starts against the Reds, the last of which was in 2015.
The White Sox (29-54) ended a three-game losing streak Sunday by salvaging the final game of a three-game series against the Texas Rangers, winning 10-5 as Avisail Garcia went 4-for-5 with a double and an RBI.
The Reds have won five consecutive interleague games but are facing the White Sox at Great American Ball Park for the first time since 2009. The White Sox are 16-4 overall against the Reds and 10-2 in Cincinnati, though that success there predated any of the current players.
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