Pirates aim for best 1st-half record since '71, sweep of Mets

The Pittsburgh Pirates will head into the All-Star break with their highest win total in more than 40 years and Sunday they can complete a three-game sweep of the New York Mets.

Fans at PNC Park and in the Steel City have plenty to be excited about with the Pirates. Their 56 victories prior to the All-Star break are the most for the team since they had a team-record 57 in 1971, the year the Buccos won the World Series.

Their 4-2 win last night boosted the Pirates into a tie atop the NL Central with the St. Louis Cardinals.

"We have to get ready for the next half, but we're not focused on that now. We're focused on (Sunday)," said Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who delivered a game-tying home run in the sixth, then knocked in the go-ahead score an inning later.

Lefty Jeff Locke was scratched from his scheduled start today due to lower back tightness. Locke was also removed from the National League roster for Tuesday's All-Star Game.

Right-hander Gerrit Cole will get the nod instead. Cole, the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, owns a 4-2 record and a 3.68 ERA over six starts for the Pirates during his rookie campaign. He has lost his last two starts, most recently allowing five hits and a pair of runs over seven innings against Oakland Tuesday.

Mets right-hander Dillon Gee heads into today's start with a 4-1 record in his last eight starts. Gee was able to escape a loss on Tuesday when he allowed nine hits, five runs and five walks over 6 2/3 innings. He didn't get a decision in New York's 10-6 victory at AT&T Park.

Gee is 2-0 with a 1.73 ERA in four career starts against the Pirates.

Pittsburgh has taken the first two tilts of this three-game set, both by breaking through against New York's bullpen.

Greg Burke (0-2) issued a pair of singles in the seventh last night before McCutchen's base hit broke a 2-2 tie. Russell Martin later drew a walk with the bases loaded to cap the frame.

Three Pirate relievers combined for 3 1/3 innings of one-hit ball, with Justin Wilson (6-1) picking up the victory after taking over for starter A.J. Burnett, who struck out eight and gave up two runs on seven hits over 5 2/3 frames.

Marlon Byrd scored on Kirk Nieuwenhuis's double and knocked in a run to account for New York's only offense.

After the game, Mets manager Terry Collins announced a change to the team's bullpen to try and ward off another possible late-inning collapse.

"We're going to bring up Scott Atchison tomorrow to give us an extra arm," Collins said.

Atchison has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 19 with a right groin strain.

The Pirates have beaten the Mets five straight times. It's their longest winning streak versus the Mets since the 1998 season. Pittsburgh's last six- game win string in this series came in 1992 when the Pirates won seven in a row.