HOUSTON -- Today could mark a pivotal, if not do-or-die, start for Ian Snell.
He is 1-6 with a 5.64 ERA, has not won since April 18 and, in what might be heightening the urgency the most, the Pirates acquired Class AAA starter Charlie Morton as part of the Nate McLouth trade and plan to promote him within the month.
Any added pressure?
"Not really, because it's really not in my hands," Snell said yesterday. "I'm just going out there to help this team win a game. That's it."
But it is in his hands to an extent, right?
"Well, yeah, but say I got out and go six innings and give up three runs. What's everybody going to say? Or two runs? Or one? Who knows what happens then? They could still easily do something."
Snell has spoken after each of his past two starts of simplifying his approach, and he reiterated that as a goal today.
"Just be myself. Be the Ian Snell that I know I can be and not let everything on the outside worry me too much."
Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran, approached by New York reporters about Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche's comment yesterday in the Post-Gazette that Beltran had "zero class" for saying his team was "embarrassed" to get swept in three games by the Pirates, might have fanned the fire.
"Being honest, I don't care what he said," Beltran said of LaRoche. "I believe we're a better team than them. I don't care what he said. I know that we could have won the first game, and there's no excuse. If we would have won that one, I tell you we would have won one or two more. There's no doubt."
Regarding "zero class," Beltran said: "I don't care what he says. I say the way I feel. This is how I feel about the team that day. If he said that, I don't agree with him. I've got class. And I've got what he said that I don't have."
LaRoche simply laughed when told of Beltran's latest.
The Pirates and Mets meet one more time this season, the rainout makeup July 2 at PNC Park. Be sure that the Pirates are looking forward to it.
General manager Neal Huntington wrote a letter that was emailed yesterday to Pirates season-ticket holders, explaining his rationale in the McLouth trade.
The most notable passage: "I understand why some people, at first glance, may believe this move was financially motivated, but I can assure you that this was strictly a baseball decision. In fact, our owner, Bob Nutting, was as surprised as some of our fans when we sought his approval for this trade. I am grateful that he has the faith in me, our baseball operations staff and the processes we have in place to approve a move like this, despite the risk of public backlash on him personally and the organization as a whole."
Team president Frank Coonelly also said he was surprised when Huntington approached him.
• Third baseman Andy LaRoche returned after missing a game to a bruised right knee.
• Manager John Russell had the players on the field early in the afternoon for extra batting practice, and he did the pitching himself for 40 minutes.
• Jeff Banister, the Pirates' minor league field coordinator and a Houston resident, is in uniform with the team this weekend.