On Sunday afternoon, the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates will meet for the seventh straight time.
The teams split four games in New York before the All-Star break, and the Pirates will go for a three-game sweep of this weekend’s series in Pittsburgh.
The Pirates are getting something of an assist, but it represents a gut check for the Mets.
Pittsburgh likely will not face Mets ace and strong Cy Young contender Jacob deGrom in any of the seven games.
He did not pitch last weekend and, as of Friday, was listed as the probable starter for Sunday, although New York manager Luis Rojas warned that things weren’t finalized. Saturday, deGrom was replaced on the probable starter listing with right-hander Taijuan Walker.
Then came distressing news later in the day for New York after deGrom cut short his side session.
“He felt some tightness in his (right) forearm,” Rojas said. “We’re approaching him as day to day at this time.”
Walker (7-3, 2.50 ERA) is now listed as the probable starter.
Rojas previously indicated that deGrom was just being managed, with a preference to start him in division games. The Mets sit atop the National League East; Pittsburgh is last in the NL Central.
One bit of mitigating news is that an MRI showed no structural damage for deGrom, according to Rojas.
The Pirates might not care who is pitching for the Mets after Saturday’s game. Pittsburgh erased a six-run deficit and won 9-7 on Jacob Stallings’ walk-off grand slam. The Pirates have won three straight and are 7-3 since a six-game losing streak.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys who never quit,” Stallings told AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh.
For the Mets, shortstop Francisco Lindor, who left Friday’s game after an awkward swing, went on the 10-day IL because of a right oblique strain.
Walker is scheduled to face Pittsburgh right-hander JT Brubaker (4-9, 4.47 ERA).
Walker isn’t deGrom, but he made the All-Star team as deGrom’s replacement and has been more than effective, including 89 strikeouts in 90 innings, with 30 walks.
He did not get a decision his last time out, July 9 against Brubaker and the Pirates, when he gave up two runs and four hits in five innings.
Overall, he is 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA in two career starts against Pittsburgh.
Brubaker took the loss July 9 against the Mets, allowing six runs and six hits in five-plus innings in his only career appearance against them. Four of his first five innings were perfect, but Pete Alonso’s three-run homer in the sixth was his undoing, as he did not get an out that inning before leaving.
Brubaker is allowing an average of 1.83 homers per nine innings.
“I think I’ve been really attacking hitters, and I guess that can be kind of a trend with the home runs, too,” he said. “Really just wanting to attack them, so mistake pitches happen.
“It seems a lot easier said than done, but that’s what I want to do moving forward after the All-Star break — just focus on not always trying to throw the perfect pitch, but just making sure I execute a pitch where I need to. And if I miss, it’s going to be down or away from them, not into the zone.”
–Field Level Media