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Series Preview: New York Mets vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

The Mets have a chance to storm into second place if they can handle Kirk Gibson's grission squad.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What's going on with the Diamondbacks?

Did the Diamondbacks win the Justin Upton trade because he's looked like more of a good outfielder than a superstar player this season? Or did they lose the Justin Upton trade because Martin Prado hasn't looked all that great until recently? I'm going to still say "lose" because even when Upton isn't tearing it up like he is right now, he still has more upside than the solid-but-unspectacular Prado.

Another reason why Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers might be regretting the offseason swap is that his team hasn't looked much like a playoff team in the second half. The Dodgers and all their glamorous showboaters have somehow surpassed the gritty snakes in the standings, but at least Kirk Gibson's team finally pulled of its first series win of the second half on Wednesday.

One of the most fun parts of Arizona's season so far has been the emergence of Paul Goldschmidt as one of the best players in the National League. At .299/.390/.545 with 26 home runs and 11 stolen bases (4.5 fWAR), Goldschmidt is a legitimate contender for the NL MVP Award. Or he would be, if people would just leave second-half splits and overall team performance out of the conversation.

Of course, if voters really did leave team wins out of the discussion, our own David Wright would be up for consideration. Since that's not happening, just choose between Andrew McCutchen and Clayton Kershaw.

Who are these guys?

Brad Ziegler is the closer for Arizona now because everyone before him fell flat on his face. J.J. Putz got hurt, Heath Bell was Heath Bell, and David Hernandez picked the wrong season to have an off year. While Ziegler's right-handed sidearm delivery doesn't make him an ideal candidate for the role, he's been splendid on the job so far, with zero earned runs allowed since recording his first save against the Mets on Independence Day. A big part of that is Ziegler not being a disaster against lefties this season. They're hitting .269/.345/.372 against him, which is just fine considering that righties hit .193/.239/.266 against Ziegler.

Wil Nieves is a journeyman backup catcher who you might remember from his three-year stint with the Nationals from 2008-2010. He's been starting for Arizona recently because of a back injury sustained by Miguel Montero. While Nieves is a career .244/.286/.314 hitter, he's batting .357/.372/.409 in 115 at-bats with the Diamondbacks this season. So far, so good. Backing up Nieves is 29-year-old rookie Tuffy Gosewisch. He was drafted by the Phillies in the 11th round of the 2005 draft, and he never really hit enough to be considered a big-time catching prospect. Not very thrilling stuff, but that is one heck of a name.

(Photo: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)

Who's on the mound?

Friday: Patrick Corbin vs. Jeremy Hefner

Corbin is like the left-handed version of Matt Harvey. He had a pretty good debut as a rookie last season, but this year he's really put himself on the map. He's got 129 strikeouts and 38 walks in 150.1 innings this season with a 2.33 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. Corbin's low BABIP and high strand rate suggest that some regression is coming in the ERA category, but his strikeout rate proves that he is still the real deal. His devastating slider just eats up lefties—they strike out 33 percent of the time against Corbin—and he still has good enough stuff to get righties out as well. In Queens on July 2, the Mets scored five runs in six innings against Corbin, but since then he's rolled off five straight quality starts with 40 strikeouts and just eight walks.

Saturday: Brandon McCarthy vs. Zack Wheeler

It's been an interesting season for McCarthy, to say the least. After getting drilled in the head by a line drive last season with the A's, he began his Diamondbacks career with a horrible month of April. McCarthy finally began to look like his old self in the month of May, and he even had back-to-back starts against the Marlins and Phillies in which he allowed zero earned runs. Just as things started looking up, though, McCarthy hit the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Ever the resilient one, he returned to action last week and allowed two runs in 4.1 innings against the Red Sox. McCarthy will try to be more efficient against the Mets this weekend, as his "brief" outing in Boston actually lasted 97 pitches.

Sunday: Zeke Spruill vs. Jon Niese

It's not a normal thing for a contender to trade away one of its rotation pitchers in the middle of the season, but that's what Arizona did with Ian Kennedy. The Diamondbacks got back a nice left-handed reliever in Joe Thatcher, but really this move was about the front office having more faith in Spruill than Kennedy going forward. Either that, or there was a lot of faith in Trevor Cahill (hip contusion) being ready to return to the rotation by now. No matter which option is true, Spruill is in the rotation now despite only striking out 54 batters in 104 minor league innings this season. After a brief stint in the bullpen in June, Spruill made his starting debut last week and allowed five runs in four innings against the Rangers. The Mets will be an easier opponent for Spruill, but he's still got a long way to go to prove he belongs in a big league rotation.

What about some GIFs?

The Diamondbacks managed to turn an incredible six doubles plays during their most recent win over the Rays. Here's two of the more splendid ones.

If you haven't seen Patrick Corbin pitch this season, these highlights from his 10-strikeout games against Milwaukee last month should help give you an idea of what he's capable of.

The Mets played a wild game against Arizona on July 4. Anthony Recker set off a rare party in the Party City Deck with this game-tying home run. Unfortunately, the celebration was short-lived and the Mets lost 5-4 in 15 innings.