Pirates aim to extend Mets' woes

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Pittsburgh Pirates target a three-game sweep of the New York Mets Sunday afternoon from PNC Park.

The Pirates took Friday's opener 4-1 and recorded an 8-2 triumph in the middle installment of this Steel City series.

A.J. Burnett continued to impress this season and limited the Mets to a run and five hits across seven innings with 10 strikeouts and no walks. He also drove in a run to help his own cause.

"He's pitching as well as I've ever seen him pitch," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.

Andrew McCutchen finished 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBI, and Pedro Alvarez also went deep. Josh Harrison ended with two hits and a pair of runs batted in for the Pirates, who prevailed for the third time in the last nine tries.

Pittsburgh is 2-2 on an eight-game homestand and will host the Miami Marlins next for three games.

Francisco Liriano looks to stop a personal three-game losing streak when he takes the ball for the Pirates Sunday. Liriano was hammered in Tuesday's 8-5 loss to Minnesota and served up seven runs and five hits in two innings.

Liriano has allowed 15 runs in his last three starts and the Pirates are 1-7 in his eight outings this season. The lefty, who is 1-4 with a 4.15 earned run average, has a 0-3 record in four home starts and won his only career start against the Mets, tossing 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball with nine K's.

Mets young ace Matt Harvey struggled in his turn on the mound Saturday and was touched for seven runs and six hits in four innings. It was the shortest outing of his young and promising career.

"Everything was kind of all over the place. I wasn't locating, obviously," said Harvey. "The arm feels fine, my body feels fine. It was just a terrible outing."

The right-hander fell to 0-2 in his last four starts after winning his first five coming off Tommy John surgery.

Ruben Tejada homered and Daniel Murphy collected three hits and an RBI for the Mets, who lost for the ninth time in 13 tries.

In other news for the Mets, star third baseman David Wright was diagnosed with spinal stenosis and his return is unknown. Wright has been experiencing back pain over the last few weeks and will cease baseball activities. He landed on the disabled list in mid-April with a hamstring issue.

Jon Niese draws the start for New York Sunday and has a 3-4 record to go along with a 3.72 earned run average through eight starts. Niese has lost two straight and four of five trips to the hill, and was tagged for eight runs and 11 hits in five innings of Tuesday's 10-2 loss to St. Louis.

Niese, who is 1-2 in four road assignments, has fared well in six career starts against Pittsburgh, going 3-1 with a 4.41 ERA.

Pittsburgh went 4-3 against the Mets last season.