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Rookies get starting nods for Pirates, Mets

NEW YORK -- A pair of rookie right-handers looking to build off strong starts will oppose each other Sunday afternoon, when the New York Mets host the Pittsburgh Pirates in the finale of a three-game series at Citi Field.

The Mets snapped a three-game losing streak Saturday night, when home runs by Neil Walker, Jay Bruce and Wilmer Flores accounted for all of New York's offense in a 4-2 win.

Both teams will look to a youngster to earn the rubber game victory on Sunday, when the Mets' Tyler Pill (0-1, 3.00 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound against the Pirates' Trevor Williams (2-3, 5.20 ERA).

It will be the third big league appearance and second start for Pill, who didn't factor into the decision last Tuesday after he gave up one run on six hits and three walks over 5 1/3 innings in the Mets' 5-4, 12-inning win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Pill, who left with a 4-1 lead before the New York bullpen gave up three runs in the seventh inning, displayed the crafty arsenal he used in going 3-1 with a 1.96 ERA in seven starts between Triple-A Las Vegas and Double-A Binghamton prior to his promotion on May 26.

While Pill's fastball rarely breaks 90 mph, his ability to throw strikes, attack hitters and wriggle out of jams is a welcome departure out of the No. 5 spot in the rotation for the Mets, who received a 10.61 ERA from Tommy Milone and Rafael Montero in their five starts in place of injured ace Noah Syndergaard.

"Never gives in, has the ability to make a pitch when he really, really has to," Mets manager Terry Collins said of Pill on Saturday afternoon. "He's not afraid to miss off the plate, because he knows he can throw a strike if he really has to. And I was impressed with the way he battled through the other night."

Williams made the longest start of his six big league starts last Monday, when he didn't factor into the decision after giving up one run over six innings as the Pirates beat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 4-3.

It was the fourth straight start in which Williams has allowed three runs or less, a stretch in which he has recorded a 3.32 ERA while issuing just three walks in 21 1/3 innings.

Like Pill, Williams relies more on location than pure velocity. While Williams is averaging 93 mph with his fastball, he has focused more on inducing contact. He needed just 67 pitches -- the fewest he has thrown in five starts this season -- to complete six innings on Monday.

"Every time you go out there, you're trying to fine-tune your craft a little bit more," Williams said Saturday afternoon. "We've been doing great, attacking hitters and getting early outs. Hopefully we can continue to do that."

Pill made his major league debut against the Pirates on May 27 and took the loss when he gave up a run in two-thirds of an inning as the Mets fell, 5-4, in 10 innings. Williams has never faced the Mets.

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