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OAK@NYM: Colon whiffs eight in as many frames

The Mets don't have any indisputable All-Stars on their roster this season, and with none of their position players leading the fan vote as of earlier this week, the most likely option might be a pitcher. Right-hander Bartolo Colon, who will take to the PNC Park mound at 1:35 p.m. ET on Sunday to face righty Edinson Volquez and the Pirates, can strengthen his case if he continues his dominance from the last month and a half.

It will be the second time in 2014 Colon and Volquez square off against their respective opponents, and their outings a month ago were representative of their seasons on the whole. Volquez yielded two runs on four hits but lasted just five innings in a 4-2 New York win on May 27, one day before Colon shut down the Bucs for 7 1/3 scoreless innings.

That was the second start in what has become an impressive streak for Colon. Since May 17, he has a 1.58 ERA and 0.88 WHIP while limiting opposing batters to a .191/.232/.277 slash line, and he's worked at least into the eighth inning in six of his seven starts. Colon's ERA has dropped from 5.84 to 3.67 in that span.

"I don't think there's any question," Mets manager Terry Collins said after Colon's most recent start, a 10-1 win over the Athletics on Tuesday. "When he takes the mound, you say, 'I know he's going to take us to the eighth inning.' No doubt."

Another typical Colon start would be significant for the Mets, who came to Pittsburgh as winners of five of their last seven -- a stretch that included wins over the Cardinals and Athletics. Against the Bucs, though, New York has dropped two of three, and will look for the four-game series split following its 5-3 win on Saturday.

Their opponent Sunday might make that a little easier for them. In eight career starts against the Mets, Volquez has a 6.63 ERA and 1.88 WHIP while yielding a .288/.389/.444 slash line.

Volquez has been far less steady than Colon since he last saw the Mets. In his last three starts, he's thrown seven shutout innings, then 2 1/3 frames of eight-run ball, then eight innings of one-run ball.

"A lot of good pitches with a runner on first base," Volquez said Monday after an 8-1 win over the Rays. "I got three or four double plays to save my pitch count. I was able to control my fastball down in the bottom of the strike zone."

Mets: d'Arnaud expected back Sunday
Anthony Recker's start behind the plate Saturday was nothing more than a day-game-after-night-game reprieve for Travis d'Arnaud, who has had a very good week since returning to the Major League club from Triple-A Las Vegas.

d'Arnaud is hitting .375 (6-for-16) with one homer and three RBIs since his promotion. He also has a hit in each of his four games, including a career-high three on Friday.

"He's made some changes at the plate," Collins said. "The swings are still very aggressive, but I think he's got better plate coverage right now because of the changes, which has helped him make better contact."

After two-plus months of struggles, which led to his demotion earlier this month, d'Arnaud's average is back up to .201.

Pirates: Bucs struggling during the day
With a 5-3 loss to the Mets on Saturday, the Pirates' record during day games dropped to 10-20 -- the worst mark in the Majors.

Among the reasons for that is Pedro Alvarez. In 2013, he hit 14 home runs in day games -- which earned him the "Daydro" moniker -- but he has hit one out just once during those contests this season.

"I continue to run back to playoff time [when Alvarez batted .353 with three homers in the 2013 National League Division Series]," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The man I saw standing in the box there, that bully in the box, when he was locked in. You know it's in there, and we're doing everything we can to help him get back in that lane."

Worth noting
• With David Wright sidelined with a bruised rotator cuff in his left shoulder, the Mets have four infielders on the roster. Eric Young Jr. could play second base in an emergency.

• Andrew McCutchen might sit out on Sunday. The Pirates hope to give him Sunday or Tuesday off to give him back-to-back down days with Monday's off-day.

• With an 0-for-5 effort on Saturday, Pirates rookie Gregory Polanco's average dipped to .299.

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