What's going on with the Giants?
After doing nothing at the trade deadline, the Mets stay home to host the San Francisco Giants, who also did nothing at the trade deadline. This is a slightly bigger deal for the Giants because they are an obvious playoff contender with an obvious hole at second base. It wouldn't be surprising to hear that they put in a call to Sandy Alderson regarding Daniel Murphy, but even if that happened, agreeing on a price is the hard part of making a deal.
So here the Giants are, fighting to hang onto the second Wild Card spot or perhaps win the division, and their second baseman is either rookie Joe Panik or the unbelievably ineffective Dan Uggla. While the Mets can be excused for hanging onto a pair of players (Murphy as well as Bartolo Colon) whose contracts extend to 2015, the Giants kind of had to do something to address a glaring need.
It's not as though the team didn't make any trades this season. Last week San Francisco dealt for Jake Peavy, but the veteran acquisition is more of a buy-low opportunity than something that will give the Giants a big boost towards the playoffs. Although it doesn't look like Matt Cain will be recovered from his elbow injury in time for this season's pennant chase, his healthy presence would make Peavy a candidate to be designated for assignment.
Who are these guys?
As a 23-year-old who was hitting .321/.382/.447 at Triple-A Fresno this season, Panik seemed like the ideal man to step up and take the second base job from Brandon Hicks. That's not how things were supposed to work out, though. Marco Scutaro was supposed to have the second base job when he popped off the disabled list in mid-July, but he quickly hurt his back and was sidelined again. In his place Panik has replicated the strikeout and walk figures that made him a solid prospect, but he's seen his power and BABIP slide into oblivion. With some more at-bats, Panik may yet find himself as a useful contributor.
Someone who may not ever again be a useful major league player is Uggla. After finally being released from the Braves after he was replaced in the starting lineup by Tommy La Stella, Uggla found himself picked up by a Giants team that desperately needed help at the keystone. Uggla hasn't even been with San Francisco for two weeks, but he hasn't shown anything to support the notion that a change of scenery will do his bat some good. That magical change of scenery potion likely isn't powerful enough to turn around your season when your strikeout rate is creeping up towards 30 percent and your power that made you such a special second baseman earlier in your career is nearly nonexistent.
Who's on the mound?
Friday: Ryan Vogelsong vs. Jon Niese
Vogelsong is always a fun story because of the way he disappeared from the majors from 2007 through 2010, bouncing around Japan and the minors before finally earning another starting gig with the Giants when Barry Zito got hurt in 2011. That season was a magical one for Vogelsong, as he ended up sticking around the whole season and pitching to a 2.71 ERA. He hasn't reached those heights again, but he has to be happy with his life as a major league rotation guy after it appeared six years ago like he would never pitch in bigs again.
Niese doesn't have the type of story that Vogelsong does. He's only been with one franchise for his entire career and he's never pitched poorly enough to have to contemplate a move to another continent. That said, Niese's role with the Mets, as with that of Dillon Gee, could be in jeopardy as early as this winter. As we all know, the Mets have a glut of pitching prospects that are all going to be awesome, and Niese hasn't pitched lately as well as he did earlier in the season. The lefty may be on a team-friendly contract, but he's also been less effective and more expensive than players like Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler lately.
Saturday: Jake Peavy vs. Jacob deGrom
Peavy will be making just his second start as a Giant against the Mets this weekend. In his first, he pitched pretty well against a strong Dodgers lineup. Three earned runs in six innings is even better when you consider what Peavy was doing with the Red Sox. A 4.71 ERA and just 7.27 strikeouts per nine innings make it hard to believe that this was once a pitcher who was capable of winning the Cy Young award. When Peavy did that, he was playing in San Diego, and that fact probably played a role in the Giants acquiring him. Pitching in the National League West is way easier than doing it in the American League East. If his first start with the Giants is any indication, this one is a change of scenery (and leagues) that could work out for San Francisco.
When tales are written of the 2014 Mets and their trials and tribulations, one of the highlights brought up will certainly be the performance of deGrom. After being called up in the middle of May alongside higher rated prospect Rafael Montero, deGrom improbably stuck around and has since gone on a run of brilliance so beautiful that it brings to memory Harvey Days of years past. With each deGrom outing, the Mets' fan base grows even more confident that the former shortstop is for real and that the team's second ace has been discovered out of nothing.
Sunday: Madison Bumgarner vs. Bartolo Colon
One of the strangest statistical anomalies of this season has got to be Bumgarner's home/road splits. Even though he plays in the pitcher's haven of AT&T Park, the lefty ace has a 5.60 ERA at home and a 1.75 ERA on the road. The strangeness has only intensified lately, with Bumgarner allowing nine runs in his last two home outings (versus Pittsburgh and Arizona) and just one run in his past two road outings (in Philly and Miami). Even with Lucas Duda hitting the way he is, the Mets still aren't known for their bats, so the trends say that they will be smashed by Bumgarner on Sunday.
I'm not sure how much Colon likes pitching for a Mets team that is at best a longshot for the NL Wild Card, but he had to be at least a little miffed that the Giants traded for the underachieving Peavy instead of for him. Or maybe he's just happy he didn't have to pick up and move. I'm not sure, but I do know that Colon is hot again, and if he pitches like he's capable of (he rarely disappoints at home), the Giants' front office could be left regretting some things.
Monday: Tim Hudson vs. Dillon Gee
We've been pretty critical of the Giants' front office so far in this preview, but it's hard to deny that picking up Hudson after his horrific ankle injury with the Braves last season was a pretty brilliant move. The 39-year-old hasn't been as good in June and July as he was in April and May, but he's still more than serviceable. The combination of a low walk rate (just 1.42 free passes per nine) and high ground ball rate (57 percent) is a recipe for success that works no matter how hard you throw.
We'd probably look at Dillon Gee's last start a little differently if Josh Edgin had just been able to retire Chase Utley at the end of the seventh inning. As things stand, five runs were charged to Gee even though only two were driven in off of him. The righty has now allowed 15 runs and five home runs in his last three starts. If he doesn't figure out a way to keep the ball in the yard soon, Gee could find himself on the trade market along with Colon (but for opposite reasons) this winter.
Prediction: Mets take three of four from the Giants, who haven't really been all that good since their torrid start to the season.
What about some highlights?
AT&T Park is considered one of the nation's premier baseball venues, but the Giants could stand to improve the beer cups.
The Mets were swept by the Bay earlier this season, but that didn't stop Keith and Kevin from having a good time. "That's not a... Oh! Look at the kitty on the boat!"
Maybe if the broadcasters were paying attention, they would have cared to remind Curtis Granderson that AT&T Park is supposed to kill left-handed power.