When Pirates starter Gerrit Cole hit the disabled list three weeks ago with right shoulder fatigue, he did so as the clubhouse leader in wins (six).
Cole will return from his hiatus on Saturday against the Mets seeking to add to that win total, which still leads the team. His counterpart, Jon Niese, despite having a 2.78 ERA -- the ninth-best in the National League -- is hoping to do the same.
Niese picked up his fourth win the last time out as the Mets' offense finally provided support, but in his previous three starts, the Mets scored a combined four runs to hand him one loss and two no-decisions.
"His line probably should have been a lot better than it was," Mets third baseman David Wright said after Niese's last start. "He's been doing an excellent job. … Offensively, we haven't done a lot to pick him up and give him a lot of run support, and I'm glad we were able to do that today."
Wright has done his part this season, but he won't be able to provide any support for Niese on Saturday. The third baseman returned to New York on Friday to have an MRI on his sore left shoulder.
Niese worked through six innings in his last start despite running into trouble in the sixth. Working through that inning allowing three runs in the outing helped him record his 12th quality start in 15 appearances this season. He hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in 19 consecutive starts.
"I was hoping he would [leave me in]," Niese said of his last start against the Marlins. "Things didn't happen the way I wanted them to, but I was able to fight through it and get out of it."
Meanwhile, Cole will return after working through his shoulder fatigue. The right-hander will be making his first start since June 3, when he allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings against the Padres. He most recently threw 84 pitches in a simulated game.
"He fired up 84, so we look to push him past that," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We'll see how the command is, velocity and how he feels. We think he's in a very good place to pick up [where he left off] -- actually, he is in a better place than when he left."
Mets: Wright returns to New York with left shoulder injury
Wright was scratched from the Mets' lineup on Friday with a sore left shoulder and returned to New York to have an MRI on Saturday.
Wright said he has dealt with shoulder trouble for about three weeks, but he reaggravated it Thursday night and did not feel like he could play Friday. He hopes the soreness won't cause him to miss an extended period of time.
"These last three weeks or so, I feel like I've been able to be productive and go through normal baseball things without feeling hesitant," Wright said. "[Thursday] that wasn't the case, I feel like it was prohibiting me from doing certain things on the baseball field."
Wright is hitting .277 this season with six home runs and 41 RBIs. Eric Campbell was inserted at third base Friday night and went 1-for-5 in Wright's place in a 3-2 loss.
Pirates: Polanco could get his day of rest
Since his much-anticipated callup to the Majors on June 10, Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco has played in every game, with just one off-day appearing on the schedule during that stretch.
The 22-year-old's first day of rest could come Saturday as the Pirates face a left-handed starter and Hurdle looks to get some of his players rest. Hurdle has said he would like to get Polanco and Andrew McCutchen a day off during this series.
Starling Marte, who has missed time with a jammed middle finger, could return Saturday, allowing Josh Harrison to play right in Polanco's place. Polanco is hitting .319 in 17 games since his promotion, hitting safely in 14 of 17 games.
• Cole is not a familiar arm for Mets hitters. The right-hander has only faced four current hitters on the roster, and they've hit .182 (2-for-11) against him.
• With Friday's victory against the Mets, the Pirates have now won six of their last seven games to move two games above .500 on the season at 41-39.
• Since the start of the 2012 season, McCutchen's 473 hits are the most by any National League player. The Mets' Daniel Murphy is second with 451.
Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.