Cosart needs strong outing against Mets

NEW YORK -- A pair of pitchers auditioning to remain in their rotations will square off Wednesday night when the New York Mets host the San Diego Padres in the middle game of a three-game series at Citi Field.

The Mets rode a seven-run first inning to an easy 9-3 victory in the opener on Tuesday. It was the third win in four games for New York (19-24), while San Diego (16-31) fell for the seventh time in eight games.

On Wednesday, Mets right-hander Robert Gsellman will return to the rotation when he takes the mound against Padres right-hander Jarred Cosart, who will be making his second start since being activated from the 10-day disabled list May 14.

Gsellman had his last turn in the rotation skipped due to off days and his recent struggles. He is 2-3 with a 7.27 ERA in seven starts this season and has allowed 18 runs over 18 innings in his past four starts.

Mets manager Terry Collins is hopeful Gsellman found some answers during his brief foray into the bullpen. Gsellman allowed one hit over two scoreless innings in his most recent appearance on Saturday, when New York beat the Los Angeles Angels, 7-5.

"He's got good enough stuff that he can get guys out," Collins said Tuesday afternoon. "I think his last two outings (were) pretty impressive (in) that he came in, challenged hitters, got the ball down in the zone. Hopefully he's got himself back to where he can go out there and give us five or six (inning), the way we know he can pitch."

If Gsellman can't rediscover the form he displayed during a late-season call-up last year, the Mets may have some options to replace him soon. Two injured starting pitchers, right-hander Seth Lugo and left-hander Steven Matz, each made a second rehab appearances on Tuesday night.

Cosart took a step forward last Thursday, when he allowed one run over five innings but didn't factor into the decision as the Padres fell 4-2 to the Milwaukee Brewers. He is winless in 19 appearances since his most recent big league victory on Sept. 17, 2015, back when he was pitching for the Miami Marlins.

But Cosart, who turns 27 on Thursday, will need to continue to show improvement in order to remain in the rotation for the rebuilding Padres, who are planning to recall prospect Dinelson Lamet to start the series finale on Thurdsay.

"The clock's been ticking on him as a starter -- I don't think it's wrong to say that right now," Padres manager Andy Green said Tuesday afternoon. "He's answered that bell really well here this year, like, hey, it's time to take advantage of your opportunity, because you don't get an infinite amount of opportunities, no matter how good your arm is."

The San Diego bullpen might be a bit thin behind Cosart on Wednesday after being forced to pitch 7 1/3 innings Tuesday. Starter Jhoulys Chacin was done after two-thirds of an inning, and he was charged with seven runs on eight hits.

Gsellman will be making his first appearance against the Padres. Cosart is 0-0 with a 3.12 ERA in six career starts against the Mets.