What's going on with the Marlins?
Since the Mets took two out of three games from the Marlins on April 25-27, the fish have been flying high. After a sweep of the Braves and a series win over the Dodgers, you can bet that Miami is all geared up for another shot at our Amazins. And I'll bet that no one is more psyched than Giancarlo Stanton, who hasn't cooled off in the least since New York saw him last. He has at least one hit in each of his last six games, and many of those hits have gone for extra bases. Yesterday against the Dodgers, Stanton ripped off two home runs to lift the Marlins to a 5-4 win over Los Angeles.
The starter for that game was none other than Jose Fernandez, whom the Mets have the good fortune of not seeing once again. It might not be the Marlins' pitching that the Mets have to worry about, though. What's really been impressive out the team during its recent terrific play is the way it is hitting the ball. Marlins Park was previously thought to be a pitcher's haven, but runs, and specifically home runs are coming much more easily for the fish this season. You mean that if you build a good team it will win games no matter what venue it plays in? Who would have thunk it?
Of course, Stanton isn't the only big fish in Miami's lineup. Youngsters Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, as well as veterans like Casey McGehee are providing lineup protection for the big slugger. Or they would, if lineup protection existed.
Who are these guys?
Reed Johnson is a solid-but-not-spectacular fourth outfielder with a penchant for killing the Mets. However, one does not simply play in the majors for over a decade by only hitting against one team. Johnson can play all three outfield positions and has done a good job getting on base (.339 career OBP) since breaking in with Toronto in 2003. He doesn't hit for enough power to stick in a corner outfield spot, and he's not quite good enough defensively to play center field full-time, but his career 118 wRC+ versus lefties is what has made Johnson such a useful bench piece over the years.
Jeff Baker has been a generic, journeyman, four-corners player since being traded from the Rockies to the Cubs for Al Alburquerque in 2009. He's bounced around between the American and National Leagues -- even playing for three separate MLB clubs in 2012 -- while filling in where he can and doing whatever he is asked. So far in 2014, Baker has been playing the right-handed half of a second base platoon alongside Derek Dietrich, but with fellow righty Ed Lucas recently returning to action, the bench could be getting crowded. Garrett Jones is continuing to not hit lefties this season, so maybe Baker can find some playing time at first base.
Who's on the mound?
Monday: Jon Niese vs. Nathan Eovaldi
The Mets didn't see Eovaldi during their first three games with the Marlins, and that's probably a good thing. The 24-year-old right-handed pitcher has allowed just two earned runs in his last three starts. He didn't show much in his first two seasons since coming to Miami in the Hanley Ramirez trade, but Eovaldi is really coming into his own this season. He's bumped is strikeout rate from 17 to 23 percent, and he's walking a minuscule 1.17 batters per nine innings. With 35 strikeouts and five walks in 38.1 innings so far, he's looking like a great second starter behind Fernandez.
Niese didn't pitch in Colorado, so he's also been playing well lately. With just one run allowed in each of his past three outings, the Mets have to feel good about their chances whenever he is on the mound. A .247 BABIP against him isn't going to last forever, but the fact that he is striking out more batters and walking less batters than last season is a good sign for Niese's sustainability.
Tuesday: Bartolo Colon vs. Henderson Alvarez
Alvarez as well as Eovaldi are great examples of pitchers flourishing under Miami's pound-the-zone philosophy. the strategy makes sense when your team plays in a park as spacious as the Marlins', and it makes even more sense when you get ground balls as constantly as Alvarez does. Two Fridays ago against the Mets, Alvarez was solid, allowing two runs in six innings. He might never be able to strike out opponents the way Eovaldi is doing this season, but his efficient style could make him a solid rotation starter for years to come.
Colon's last start in Colorado went about as well as you'd think for a contact pitcher who gets a lot of fly balls. Even with the way Miami is hitting at home, Colon should fare much better in Marlins Park than he did in Coors Field. With the way him and Alvarez come after hitters, Tuesday's game promises to be played at a brisk pace.
Wednesday: Zack Wheeler vs. Tom Koehler
Koehler is coming off his best start of the season in which he allowed just three hits to the Dodgers over seven shutout innings. He sports a 2.41 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, but his peripheral stats continue to look like those of a replacement level player. Koehler walks almost four batters per nine innings while striking out less than six. Meanwhile, his BABIP against is .215 and his strand rate is 86 percent. Koehler has gotten pretty lucky so far this season, but not against the Mets. They scored four runs in five innings against him back on April 27, which was a welcome reprieve from the mastery that Koehler had over the Amazins in 2013.
In consecutive starts, Wheeler has pitched his best game of the season followed by his worst. The worst was more recent, but the best was against Miami, so the Mets have reason to expect a return to excellence this week.
Prediction: The Mets bounce back and win two of three against their rivals.
What about some GIFs?
David Wright was flashing the ole leather when the Mets last met the Marlins two weekends ago.
Daniel Murphy showed off some serendipitous soccer skills during the first game of the series.
Later that night, Curtis Granderson hit a walk-off single and celebrated with a cream pie to the face.