Buck Showalter always appreciated how Eduardo Escobar handled himself while struggling throughout most of his first season with the New York Mets.
Now Escobar is rewarding the Mets with his best stretch of the season.
Escobar and the Mets will look to complete a four-game sweep of the visitingPittsburgh Pirates on Sunday afternoon.
Jacob deGrom (5-2, 2.01 ERA) is slated to start for the Mets against Johan Oviedo (1-1, 3.34) in a battle of right-handers.
Escobar continued his hot hitting on Saturday with a three-run homer in the second inning to spark a 5-1 win.
The victory kept the Mets (92-55) kept one game ahead of the second-place Atlanta Braves (90-55) in the race for the National League East crown and the likely second bye in the playoffs. The Braves posted a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday.
Escobar, who missed another three-run homer by a few feet in the fourth, finished 2-for-3 with a walk and is batting .393 (22-for-56) with six homers and 12 RBIs this month.
He entered September hitting just .218 with 12 homers and 44 RBIs in his first season with the Mets, who signed him to a two-year deal last November. The 33-year-old infielder spent much of August battling a sore left oblique.
"You love to see people get a return for the sincerity they have about the competition," Showalter said. "When he gets frustrated, it's not because (of) something individually. It's about (how) he wants to contribute to the team. And he has, early in the season. And he obviously went through some tough times and had a lot of challenges.
"That's why you have to have tough people to play at this level. Because there's going to be failure. And through thick and thin, he was the same guy everyday he walked through the door. But you could tell it was killing him."
The third loss of the series might have been the most frustrating one for the Pirates (55-91), who arrived in New York in the midst of a four-game winning streak.
But the Pirates have yet to lead in the series and continually hurt themselves Saturday by issuing eight walks -- including two with the bases loaded -- and plunking four Mets batters.
"We cannot give up free passes, especially to a club like this," Pirates manager Derek Shelton told reporters. "They control the zone. They make you throw the ball on the plate and we scattered the ball way too much tonight."
deGrom took the loss Tuesday night after allowing three runs over six innings in a 4-1 setback to the Chicago Cubs.
Oviedo earned his first win for the Pirates on Tuesday afternoon, when he allowed just one hit over five scoreless innings in a 6-1 victory versus the Cincinnati Reds.
deGrom and Oviedo opposed each other in the second game of a doubleheader in Pittsburgh on Sept. 7. The former earned the win by allowing three hits over seven scoreless innings in the Mets' 10-0 victory. The latter took the loss after giving up four runs and five walks in 1 2/3 innings.
deGrom is 2-3 with a 2.08 ERA in seven career starts against the Pirates. Oviedo is 0-2 with a 12.71 ERA in two starts versus the Mets.
--Field Level Media