The New York Mets' starting pitching had been a strength all season, but the rotation has hit a slight bump against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Trying to avoid a three-game sweep, the Mets will somewhat modify that staff Sunday when they look for their first road win in seven tries.
Noah Syndergaard was outpitched by Gerrit Cole in Friday's 4-1 loss and Matt Harvey followed consecutive scoreless outings by getting tagged for a career-high seven runs in a career-low four innings in Saturday's 8-2 defeat. Andrew McCutchen hit his sixth home run of the season, Pedro Alvarez hit his eighth and Josh Harrison extended his hitting streak to 10.
The Mets' starters entered Saturday ranked third in the majors with a 3.43 ERA.
"It's just a pretty terrible outing," Harvey said.
Now they'll turn to Jonathan Niese (3-4, 3.72 ERA), coming off a dreadful start of his own, allowing a career high-tying eight runs and 11 hits in five-plus innings in Tuesday's 10-2 loss to St. Louis. He is 3-1 despite a 4.41 ERA in six starts against the Pirates (20-22) with the Mets winning five times.
Dillon Gee will also be in the mix, and his reintroduction to the roster Sunday likely marks the start of a six-man rotation. After suffering a groin strain on May 9 that landed him on the disabled list, Gee was replaced by Syndergaard, who earned his stay with three strong starts and a 3.63 ERA to begin his career.
The six-man rotation will allow the Mets (24-20) to more strategically manage the innings of Syndergaard, second-year pitcher Jacob deGrom and Harvey, coming off elbow surgery in 2014.
"We've got a lot of managing to do of workloads," manager Terry Collins told MLB's official website. "A lot of it. When you add Noah to deGrom to Harvey, there's a lot of maneuvering that needs to be done. ... We'll come up with a plan that's hopefully going to work for us all."
Pittsburgh will go with Francisco Liriano (1-4, 4.15), whose only previous outing against the Mets came two years ago.
Liriano has revitalized his career since joining Pittsburgh in 2013, but provided cause for concern Tuesday with his shortest outing as a Pirate. The left-hander allowed seven runs in two innings in an 8-5 loss to Minnesota.
"That start didn't work out well for him. He'll be back. He'll be better," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's going to work. He's going to take ownership of it."
He takes the hill following dominant starts from Cole, who went 8 1-3 innings in the series opener, and A.J. Burnett, who lowered his ERA to 1.37 with one run allowed while striking out 10 in seven innings Saturday.
New York is 2 for 31 (.065) with runners in scoring position during its six-game road losing skid. Prior to this series, the Mets were swept in four games at the Chicago Cubs from May 11-14.
David Wright's return has been pushed back after the third baseman was shut down for at least another week because of a back problem. Wright, who hasn't played since mid-April, has been diagnosed with stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column. He will rest one week before being reassessed.
''It's just something that seems to be taking longer than we initially thought,'' Mets assistant general manager John Ricco said. ''The way it was progressing, (doctors) thought it would be gone by now.''