PITTSBURGH -- Pedro Martinez can only hope to be as good in the second half of the season as he was in the first. The New York Mets can only wish that Carlos Beltran's second half is as good as last season's.
Beltran hit a two-run homer in the first inning to give Martinez the only runs he needed against a once-familiar and oft-beaten opponent, and the Mets avoided a sweep by beating the outmatched Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 Sunday.
Mike Cameron added a two-run double to help the Mets get to .500 at 44-44 at the All-Star break after a rough start to a weekend they were hoping to pick up ground in the NL East. They were within a strike of winning by four runs Friday before losing 6-5 in the 10th, then were battered during a seven-run Pirates seventh inning in an 11-4 loss Saturday.
"It was important to pick up the team and start playing the way we were playing, kind of forget about the first two games and start over," Martinez said.
Martinez (10-3) took care of that, remaining the one positive constant in a decidedly uneven Mets season. The right-hander was in control in his first start in Pittsburgh since 1997, striking out four in the first two innings and nine overall in seven innings to win his eighth in 10 decisions and lower his ERA to 2.82.
"Typical Pedro -- I keep saying it but it's the truth," manager Willie Randolph said. "It was almost like a carbon copy of the way he's thrown this season."
By contrast, the Mets' No. 1-3 hitters -- Jose Reyes, Cameron and Beltran -- were 7-for-14 with five RBI.
"He's one of the best pitchers in the game for a reason," said Bay, the Pirates' lone All-Star representative. "We had chances, but he kind of shut us down. He did what he wanted to do with all of his pitches. When you're looking for something offspeed, he can dial it up to 93 (mph) and when you're looking for that, he can put the offspeed stuff where he wants it."
Nothing new there, even if it's been a long time since he faced the Pirates: Martinez is 9-3 with a 2.78 ERA in 17 career appearances against them, most while with the Montreal Expos. His last previous win in Pittsburgh was a 5-4 decision on Sept. 10, 1997.
Martinez made it look so effortless and easy, maybe he should think about pitching in the All-Star game after all. He passed up a spot on the NL team because he couldn't pitch on one day's rest Tuesday.
Pirates starter Kip Wells (6-9) was as bad as Martinez was good despite coming off his best career start, a four-hit, 12-strikeouts shutout Tuesday of the Phillies. Wells was effectively out of this one after three batters.
Reyes singled to start the first for the first of his four hits, and moved up on Cameron's single off second baseman Castillo's glove into short center field. Cameron was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.
Beltran, whose first half was hardly what the Mets expected of a $119 million player, followed by hitting the first pitch he saw from Wells into the right-field seats for his 10th homer to make it 2-0.
Beltran is hitting .266 with 10 homers and 44 RBI, a season after he had 38 homers and 104 RBI with the Royals and Astros, then hit eight more homers in the postseason. Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon called him the best player in the majors during the second half.
"I'm just waiting for my time to come," Beltran said. "I hope in the second half, everything changes for me."
Remarkably, all but one of his home runs this season have been hit in games started by Martinez.
"It's kind of eerie, kind of weird how that's been happening all year," Randolph said. "I'm not going to question it, just let it keep happening. ... I think he's going to have a monster second half."
Cameron's two-run double came in a three-run fifth started by Reyes' RBI single. Wells gave up five runs and nine hits in five innings.
"It wasn't a good way for him to end the first half," McClendon said.
- The Pirates are 39-48 at the break, almost identical to their 39-47 of a season ago.
- The Mets are just 2-7 against the Pirates the last two seasons.
- The Mets went 4-3 on a road trip to Washington and Pittsburgh, winning three of four from the first-place Nationals.
- Martinez has allowed three earned runs or fewer in all but one of his last 10 starts.
- Beltran is 5-for-10 against Wells.
- Until Sunday, the Mets had been outscored 45-27 in the first inning.
- The Pirates' Craig Wilson is 1-for-8 with five strikeouts since returning Saturday from a long injury layoff. He had been out since May 6 with a left middle finger injury.