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Series Preview: New York Mets vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

The Mets head to Hollywood. Can we get a run-scoring montage?

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

That sound you just heard was Citi Field roaring in excitement as Curtis Granderson drove in Jacob deGrom for the Mets' first run since Sunday. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to lift the ailing club to a win over the Cubs, and New York lost its third straight game on Thursday afternoon.

Things aren't about to get any easier for Terry Collins and company. Now back where they started at 40-40, the Mets must rediscover their offense against the top two teams in the National League West if they hope to enter the All-Star break with a record resembling that of a postseason contender. The left coast trip begins with three games against the Dodgers over Independence Day weekend. We all know that America loves the long ball, so maybe the Mets can get in the patriotic spirit and surprise us with a couple of wins at Chavez Ravine.

Why is Turner this good?

One of the most frustrating parts of the 2015 season has been New York's inability to find anyone who can hit consistently at third base since David Wright landed on the disabled list with a back injury. Meanwhile, Justin Turner has gone from role player with the Mets to one of the best hitters in baseball in Los Angeles. Oh, if only the Mets had known they had a diamond in the rough when Turner was playing part-time for them from 2011 through 2013.

After a terrific start in Queens that included a National League Rookie of the Month award, Turner didn't give much indication that he was anything more than a utility player. He finished 2011 hitting .260/.334/.356, but his walk rate (and his playing time) shrunk in 2012, when he hit .269/.319/.392 in 185 plate appearances. After Turner performed similarly in 2014, you can't blame the Mets for letting him join the Dodgers on a minor league free agent deal the following winter.

Turner suddenly started hitting better when he got out of New York. His walk rate rose above eight percent and his isolated power jumped from .105 to .153, resulting in a career-high seven home runs in 322 plate appearances. Add in a .404 BABIP, and you had a player who was both versatile and powerful. Even so, it looked like a small sample size fluke until Turner starting playing even better in 2015. His BABIP is down to a more sustainable .331, but Turner is now hitting .314/.388/.565 thanks to a decrease in strikeout rate and a huge spike in power. He's so good that the Dodgers had no problem trading away Juan Uribe and placing Turner in the third spot of their regular lineup.

Sure, the Mets wish they had Turner right now, but it's not as if they didn't give him enough chances to shine in New York.

How come no one likes Puig?

Back in 2013, a young Cuban player named Yasiel Puig was called up by the Dodgers and took the baseball world by storm with his unbridled passion, spectacular defense, and incredible plate coverage. While Puig's power has decreased a little and though he's no longer a novelty, you have to admire how he's refined his hitting approach over the past two seasons. The 24-year-old has now upped his walk rate and decreased his strikeout rate for the second consecutive year. Puig looks like he'll be a fine hitter for years to come, so why doesn't manager Don Mattingly seem to like him very much?

Maybe it has something to do with the reported animosity between Puig and some of his teammates. We've known for a while that Puig can infuriate opponents by pimping his home runs a bit, but excerpts from a new book reveal that some of his off-the-field antics get on the nerves of guys in the Dodger clubhouse. There's still a good chance that this situation is being blown out of proportion, but if Puig continues to cause trouble, Los Angeles may look to deal a player that once looked untouchable.

What gives the team leverage is the glut of talented outfielders currently in its employ. Rookie Joc Pederson leads the way as a three-true-outcomes beast. So far this season, he has 20 home runs, 55 walks, and 94 strikeouts for a 154 wRC+. The Dodgers are also getting nice production from Andre Ethier, who mashes righties, and Scott Van Slyke, who crushes lefties. Add in the powerful-but-raw Alex Guerrero, who Mattingly doesn't seem to know what to do with, and you've found a team who might be able to trade away an outfielder without feeling too guilty about it. Too bad Sandy Alderson is too busy walking his dog to care!

Scoring runs is not getting any easier

Although back-of-the-rotation arms like Mike Bolsinger and Brett Anderson are pitching fairly well so far, the Dodgers could still stand to solidify their starting staff. It would be cool if the Mets could flip Jon Niese over to Los Angeles and get back one of those extra outfielders, but then again, Niese isn't pitching that much better than the guys whom the Dodgers are rolling out when Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke aren't playing.

Let's worry about that another day, though, because the problem this weekend will be producing any offense at all against two of the top starters in the National League.

Date Time Television Mets Probable Starter Dodgers Probable Starter
July 3, 2015 10:10 PM SNY, ESPN Noah Syndergaard Clayton Kershaw
July 4, 2015 7:15 PM FOX Matt Harvey Zack Greinke
July 5, 2015 4:10 PM PIX 11 Steven Matz Mike Bolsinger

Kershaw's 3.20 ERA may be surprisingly high this year (it hasn't been that high for an entire season since he was a rookie), but he's still as tough as ever. The lefty is approaching 12 strikeouts per nine innings this year, and he walks just two per nine. The problem for Kershaw has been the abnormally high amount of home runs he's given up, but if he keeps missing this many bats, a third consecutive Cy Young Award isn't out of the question.

On the statistical surface, it looks like Greinke has been a little better than Kershaw. Los Angeles's second ace has a ridiculous 1.58 ERA in 108.1 innings so far, but let's get real; he's not that good of a pitcher. Greinke is striking out just under eight batters per nine, which is nice, but not supportive of that sexy ERA. Low walks, home runs, and BABIP are all helping Greinke look like a superior hurler when he's merely a great one.

That brings us to Bolsinger, whom the Dodgers acquired from the Diamondbacks last November in exchange for cash considerations. This happened after the right-hander made nine starts as a 26-year-old for Arizona with a 5.50 ERA and 3.31 xFIP. Turns out that the xFIP was much closer to the truth, as Bolsinger now has a 2.76 ERA in 11 starts for Los Angeles (his xFIP is just a tad lower than before at 3.22). With a decent strikeout rate and even better ground ball rate, Bolsinger could continue to be a major league starter for years to come. He's a young asset that Arizona would probably like to have back.

The trio of Mets pitchers are all coming off of really nice outings, but it's still going to be tough sledding against a Dodgers lineup that is packed with dangerous sluggers. New York will no doubt have to pitch well to give the team a chance to win, but maybe the offense can finally step up. We know the New York lineup is bad, but it's not really as bad as it was against Chicago, right?

Prediction: Mets lose two of three.

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