Bucs try to string back-to-back wins together in Flushing

Young southpaw Jeff Locke can at least temporarily keep the Pittsburgh Pirates' fleeting postseason hopes alive Wednesday when they visit Citi Field for the third of four games against the host New York Mets.

The Pirates sit seventh in the race for the National League's two wild card berths, 7 1/2 games behind the No. 2 slot now held by the St. Louis Cardinals.

St. Louis won on Tuesday in Houston to lower their magic number to one to eliminate the Pirates from contention, after a summer in which Pittsburgh contended early for the National League's Central Division before skidding in the second half.

Locke has appeared in six games and started four times in 2012 but is still seeking his first victory.

His most recent start came Sept. 21 at Houston, where he pitched five innings and allowed three runs on three hits in a 7-1 loss.

Locke, who has never faced the Mets, made 10 appearances and started eight times in the majors since debuting last season and has combined to pitch 41 1/3 innings while giving up 46 hits and 27 runs with a .280 opposition batting average.

New York goes with rookie righty Jeremy Hefner, who once again seeks his first win since Aug. 4.

The 26-year-old was 2-4 on the season after tossing six innings of five-hit, one-run ball in a 6-2 defeat of the Padres in San Diego, but has since gone 0-3 in nine appearances.

He was a 16-1 loser to Philadelphia in an ugly start on Sept. 20, failing to retire a single batter while allowing seven runs on six innings with a walk and no strikeouts.

Hefner has never faced the Pirates.

On Tuesday, Pedro Alvarez smacked a three-run homer and Garret Jones added a two-run blast to lead the Pirates to a 10-6 triumph over the Mets.

Alvarez finished the game with four RBI and Jones knocked in three while Josh Harrison added two hits and a pair for RBI for the Pirates.

"I wish that record-wise we would be doing a little better in the standings, but this is just one of those things that when the year is over I'll be able to reflect on," said Alvarez, who's hit a career-high 30 homers. "But right now we are just trying to win some ball games."

Wandy Rodriguez (12-13) surrendered three runs on four hits and struck out three over six innings to pick up his third win in five starts. Rodriguez hasn't lost since Aug. 24.

Justin Turner and David Wright hit back-to-back homers and Ruben Tejada had two hits and scored twice for the Mets, who had a four-game winning streak snapped.

Collin McHugh (0-3) was charged with the loss after giving up seven runs on five hits in just 1 1/3 innings.

"I truly believe he has run out of gas," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "You accumulate all the innings he has this year, pitching in September for the first time. His stuff is not as crisp as his first outing."

The Mets won two of three from the Pirates in their lone series of 2012, from May 21-23 in Pittsburgh.