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Series Preview: San Francisco Giants vs. New York Mets

After treading more water on the west coast, the Mets come home to try their luck against the Giants.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

You know the story by now. Behind an incredible postseason run by Madison Bumgarner, the Giants won their third World Series title in five years last October. This season, though, San Francisco is trying to do something it hasn't done since the Barry Bonds era: qualify for the postseason in consecutive seasons.

The endeavor didn't get off to a great start with the Giants losing nine of their first 12 games and finishing April with a 9-13 mark. A 21-9 record in May, however, has Bruce Bochy's team right back in the thick of the National League West title race. The 2015 version of the Giants isn't as dominant on the pitching side as we're used to. Just two of the five regular starters have an ERA+ above 100, but the lineup is thriving due to a couple of breakout performers.

A new superstar shortstop appears

Brandon Crawford has been a terrific defensive player since he debuted in 2011, but this year his offense is finally catching up. A surge in power by the 28-year-old has him on pace to blow past his career high of 10 home runs (he has eight already) with a .853 OPS that is second on the team to Brandon Belt.

That kind of production out of a shortstop is a luxury these days, and it has Crawford atop the leaderboard in fWAR for his position. The boost he's given the Giants has gone a long way towards the team owning the second best OPS+ on the senior circuit.

Crawford isn't the only San Francisco player who's taken a leap forward this year. Joe Panik has improved in nearly every statistical category in his sophomore campaign at second base. His walks are up from six percent to nine percent, and his isolated power of .141 is the highest figure he's posted since Rookie ball. Even if that power doesn't hold up, Panik's plate discipline and defense make him someone the Giants will want to line up at the keystone for years to come.

With high on-base percentages being posted by the middle infield as well as Belt, Buster Posey, and the impossible-to-strikeout Norichika Aoki, it's a mystery how the Giants have only scored 4.12 runs per game. That's just slightly above the NL average, and yet the Giants have one of the top offenses in the league when measured by OPS. As long as they keep on reaching base, that run average is going to rise.

Good injury news is possible?

No, your Google is not deceiving you. Although the Mets have been far better his season at putting players on the disabled list than taking them off, it looks like two talented young players will be back in action on Wednesday. Travis d'Arnaud and Dilson Herrera, who are both on the disabled list with broken fingers, should be in the starting lineup for the middle game of this upcoming series.

d'Arnaud promises to give the offense a significant kick in the rear. It was cool to see Kevin Plawecki in the big leagues so soon after he was drafted out of Purdue in 2012, but he hasn't done much to promote a catcher controversy with his .568 OPS in 33 games. Before getting hurt, d'Arnaud was off to a terrific start by hitting .317/.356/.537 with a pair of home runs in 11 games. That's too small of a sample size to say that d'Arnaud is going to continue producing like he did in 2014's second half, but it's better than nothing. The Mets shouldn't hesitate to move him into the second spot of the lineup and see what he can do.

Herrera, meanwhile, is in a bit of a trickier spot. He for sure has a spot on the roster thanks to a Daniel Murphy quad injury, but the starting lineup could be a different story. Ruben Tejada has been riding a hot bat and so has Eric Campbell in the three starts he's had since Murphy went down. The 21-year-old Herrera offers more upside than Campbell, but Soup had been remarkably unlucky with BABIP prior to last week and could finally be coming around. On the other hand, Herrera is so young that it's pointless to have him on the bench at any level. My guess is that Campbell returns to the bench as a utility-man-slash-pinch-hitter while Herrera starts at second base.

No, it's not 2011

But Tim Lincecum is leading the Giants rotation in ERA. I wouldn't say he's back to being vintage Lincecum, though. The two-time Cy Young Award winner is striking out seven batters per nine while walking four per nine, which means that his 3.29 ERA is based mostly on his ability to keep the ball in the yard (just six home runs allowed so far) as well as a career-high 79-percent strand rate. The 30-year-old Lincecum's durability and experience make him a nice fourth or fifth starter, but don't just look at his ERA and assume he's turning back the clock.

Madison Bumgarner is still far and away the top pitcher on San Francisco's staff, but the Mets won't have to face him this week. Instead, they'll get an old guy and a new guy in addition to Lincecum. Let's start with the old guy. Tim Hudson has made a season's worth of starts (32 to be exact) against the Mets in his career. I was kind of surprised that his 3.52 ERA against New York was so high, but he did managed to go 17-10 thanks to the Braves always giving the Mets the business. This season, the veteran's strikeout rate is down to an absurd 13 percent, but he's still getting enough ground balls to scrape by. If the Mets can manage to lift the ball against Hudson, they should score enough for Matt Harvey to get the win.

Date Time Television Giants Probable Starter Mets Probable Starter
June 9, 2015 7:10 PM SNY Chris Heston Noah Syndergaard
June 10, 2015 7:10 PM SNY Tim Hudson Matt Harvey
June 11, 2015 7:10 PM SNY, MLBN Tim Lincecum Jon Niese

Chris Heston is the new guy in the rotation after a cup of coffee in 2014. He got his 2015 campaign off to a great start thanks to Hudson-like figures in the walk and ground ball departments, but lately Heston has been a disaster. Three of his last four starts have seen the rookie give up five runs or more in fewer than six innings. He was brilliant for seven innings against Atlanta two weeks ago, but hopefully the bad Heston shows up in New York.

With Bumgarner sitting in the dugout for this series, the Mets will once again appear to have a steep advantage in the starting pitching department. As we've seen, though, that doesn't always translate into wins.

Prediction: Mets win one of three.

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