After two disheartening losses against the Pirates, Pedro Martinez rescued the Mets on Sunday.
The ace right-hander allowed one run over seven innings in a 6-1 victory. That left the Mets at 44-44 going into the All-Star break, just eight games behind first-place Washington but in last place in the NL East.
Pitching in Pittsburgh for the first time in eight years and for the first time at PNC Park, Martinez allowed five hits. He walked one and struck out nine. He is 10-3 with a 2.72 ERA.
Martinez was selected to the All-Star team but declined to attend because he was due to pitch on Sunday. He is not scheduled to pitch again until next Sunday so he can get an extended rest at the break.
Roberto Hernandez and Braden Looper pitched a scoreless inning each as the Mets finished their road trip at 4-3.
Martinez has allowed three earned runs or fewer in all but one of his past 10 starts.
Before Friday night's game against Pittsburgh, Mets RHP Heath Bell said that he wanted the batters and defense to know that they can have faith in the bullpen, that the Mets' bullpen can get the job done when it counts.
Not so fast, Heath.
In the Pirates' 6-5, 10-inning win, the Mets' bullpen -- specifically, RHP Aaron Heilman and RHP Braden Looper -- snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Going into the bottom of the ninth, the Mets had a seemingly insurmountable 5-1 lead, looking to close out a Pirates team that had lost 16 of their last 23 games.
It should have been over. It wasn't.
Heilman gave up back-to-back one-out hits to 2B Jose Castillo and 1B Daryle Ward. After getting C Ryan Doumit to fly out to RF Mike Cameron, Heilman walked SS Jack Wilson to load the bases. Mets manager Willie Randolph replaced Heilman with Looper. Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon countered by pinch-hitting CF Tike Redman.
On the 11th pitch of the at-bat, Redman singled to center, scoring Castillo and Ward, bringing the Pirates within two.
Two pitches later, LF Matt Lawton hit a slicing drive to right. RF Cliff Floyd charged, but the ball bounced past him and rolled to the wall, scoring Wilson and Redman, tying the game at five.
An inning later, it got worse for Looper.
With two outs and runners on first and second, C Humberto Cota singled to right, scoring CF Rob Mackowiak.
The Mets, after taking three-of-four from the Nationals, fell back to .500 (43-43). They also ruined a strong start from RHP Victor Zambrano. In eight innings, Zambrano allowed one run and five hits, while striking out four.
RHP Steve Trachsel, on the 60-day disabled list with a herniated disk, hoped to throw a simulated game this week. The Mets expect Trachsel to rejoin the team in early August.
When the Mets traded for 1B Doug Mientkiewicz in the offseason, he was expected to fill the Mets' gaping hole at first base.
That hasn't happened.
In the Mets' first 85 games, they have had six first basemen: Miguel Cairo, last night's starter Marlon Anderson, Brian Daubach, Jose Offerman, Chris Woodward and Mientkiewicz.
3B David Wright will enjoy the All-Star break. The rookie third baseman's last day off was May 10.
All Mike Piazza needed was a little rest.
Piazza snapped out of an 0-for-16 skid with three hits and two RBI on Thursday to help the Mets to a 3-2 victory over the Washington Nationals.
Piazza's bloop single in the 11th inning gave the Mets the victory and three out of four in the series at RFK Stadium. The Mets trimmed their deficit in the National League East to eight games.
Piazza, who was given Wednesday off, now has 629 RBIs with the Mets, matching Howard Johnson for second on the franchise career list.
"I think the day off helped," said Piazza, who had gone six games without driving in a run. "My swings were a lot better and I built on that over the course of the game."
Piazza's big day started with an RBI double in the fourth inning.
"Mike's always been a professional hitter, a clutch player. When people started calling for his head, I don't hear all that," Mets manager Willie Randolph said.
RHP Pedro Martinez, who is scheduled to start in Pittsburgh on Sunday, pulled out of Tuesday's All-Star game.
"I would love to go if I would get at least one more day of rest. With just one day in between games, I can't pitch like it's a regular game," he said. "I don't want to hurt myself up there. I would like to compete, but if not, let somebody else go get the opportunity." Martinez is 9-3 with a 2.80 ERA. He was replaced on the NL roster by Philadelphia closer Billy Wagner.
SS Jose Reyes, taken out of the leadoff spot for two games earlier this week, was back atop the order Thursday. He drew a walk to start the game, stole second, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Mike Cameron and scored on a grounder to shortstop by Carlos Beltran. "That's pretty much how you draw it up," manager Willie Randolph said.
It has been a struggle for the Mets to stay over .500 this season. But with the July 31 trade deadline getting closer, general manager Omar Minaya still considers himself a buyer.
The Mets, he pointed out, are very much contenders for the National League wild card.
"If you asked me today, today we're buyers," Minaya said. "The way we feel, we're in the race as far as the wild card is concerned. There's a lot of baseball to play."
The Mets could use another bat and bullpen help. But the market has not yet been established.
"Other clubs are fielding calls, but a lot of teams feel they are still in the wild card," Minaya said. "It's still early."
Manager Willie Randolph said his preference would be to upgrade the offense. That would likely mean trading for a new first baseman or second baseman.
"I don't feel we have to do anything," Randolph said. "Of course I would love to be stronger but I have to focus on the game today and who we have out there."
The Mets have enough reputable prospects to make a deal. But there is little chance Minaya would deal from the top of his deck.
"If you want to build a winning organization, you have to make minor league prospects to bring up in case of injuries and those types of things," Minaya said. "You have to be careful with prospects."
LHP Tom Glavine, who has been in the big leagues since 1987, started on Wednesday against the Nationals. RFK Stadium was the 39th stadium he has started a game in.
BY THE NUMBERS: 22 -- Home runs by Cliff Floyd. He had 18 all of last season. His career high was 31 in 2001.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We gave the game away. We gave it away. We just gave it away." -- Manager Willie Randolph on the Mets blowing a 5-1 lead and losing 6-5 in 10 innings against the Pirates on Friday.