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Series Preview: New York Mets vs. Miami Marlins

After a thrilling weekend at home, the Mets hope to avoid a hangover in sunny Miami.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It's amazing how quickly the narrative can change in just a matter of days. Less than a week ago, the Mets were a joke of a franchise that left one of its players crying on the field because it didn't know how to finish a deal. Three exciting wins over the first-place Nationals later, and these Mets are a national inspiration.

Those victories, in combination with the bats that New York picked up prior to the trade deadline, are giving fans all over the world hope that this is the year the Mets return to the postseason. The script can flip the other way, though. We're just two or three losses in Miami away from hearing everyone say "same old Mets" and going back to watching the other pennant races. The search for October might be real, but it's also easily lost if New York can't keep up its winning ways.

When is Stanton coming back?

Miami's superstar outfielder Giancarlo Stanton broke a bone in his wrist back in June, and his rehab work is not considered on schedule. Recently, Stanton said that he is recovering more slowly that expected. That's not good for a Miami offense that has trouble putting runs on the board.

It's not a huge surprise that Dee Gordon has failed to sustain the smoldering pace that he began the season with or that Adeiny Hechavarria has seen his OPS dip back below .700 after a similarly hot start. At least those players can contribute to up-the-middle defense or with speed on the basepaths. What really hurts the Marlins attack is that Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna haven't built on 2014 campaigns that showed a lot of promise.

He spent much of April and May struggling with a back injury, but Yelich has picked up his play lately, hitting .319/.404/.429 in July. With a walk rate around 10 percent throughout his short major league career, it's easy to imagine Yelich as a solid leadoff hitter for the Marlins in future years, but the 23-year-old has yet to flash the power that made him such a hot prospect in the minor leagues. Yelich's isolated power is hovering around .100 this year, and that's something we'll look for him to improve on as he matures.

The slight disappointment that is the Yelich campaign is not concerning, however, compared to what Ozuna has been through. He was a breakout performer in 2014 when he hit .269/.317/.455 with solid outfield defense boosted by his cannon of an arm. This year, though, has seen Ozuna's power mysteriously disappear. It doesn't look like he will ever be much of an on-base guy, but Ozuna did manage to cut his strikeout rate from 26 percent to 23 percent in 2015. Unfortunately, that hasn't made up for his .282 wOBA that is caused mostly by a drop in power.

Since being demoted to Triple-A New Orleans in early July, Ozuna has hit the ball very well (.321/.368/.568), but apparently not well enough to warrant a return to the big leagues. This has caused some confusion among Marlins fans who would like to see a potential star on the field in Miami instead of the should-have-been-traded Ichiro Suzuki.

In Ozuna's stead, Ichiro is hitting for a .580 OPS at age 41. At least backup Cole Gillespie and his .745 OPS are only 31 years old. I think it's time for Miami to play the kids a little more.

Another Florida fire sale?

After all, it's hard to argue against playing the young guys when you sell at the trade deadline the way Miami just did. Gone are winter acquisition Mat Latos as well as veteran right-hander Dan Haren. Even the disappointing Michael Morse was able to be dumped on the Dodgers (who had no use for him and immediately hit the DFA button). For Marlins fans, though, this hardly constitutes the type of major everything-must-go sale that they have seen throughout the team's history.

In other words, Miami kept the pieces that it needs to compete in 2016 and beyond. Sure, both guys are dealing with injury issues, but the Marlins held onto Jose Fernandez and Stanton for a reason other than that. This team has the stars that every team wants to build around, and now it has a few more young pieces as well thanks to the trades of expiring contracts.

Due to the rotation departures, we'll get to see some younger starting pitching from Miami during the remainder of the season. Jose Urena, who appeared as a reliever against the Mets back in April, is back in the big leagues after showing promise in June as a control-and-ground-balls guy. Justin Nicolino is another prospect with a promising future despite low strikeout totals. He looked great in his major league debut against the Reds on June 20, but then was overmatched in a loss to the Dodgers during his next start.

No matchup of Tommy John super stars

Matt Harvey versus Fernandez would have been a thrilling matchup, especially considering how well the Miami ace has pitched since returning from his elbow surgery. In fact, he's yet to throw a non-quality start since making his 2015 debut on July 2. Fernandez has allowed zero runs in two of his six outings so far, including his last one on Sunday which featured 10 strikeouts and two walks in six innings against San Diego.

Instead, Harvey will face David Phelps, who has kept the Mets in check with five runs allowed in 12 innings over the course of two starts earlier in the season. After working as a swingman for the Yankees last year, Phelps has seen his strikeout rate drop along with an increased number of starts. His drop in ERA from 4.38 last year to 3.93 this year could be caused by Phelps's lower walk rate, but perhaps that ERA should be even lower when you consider the new league and park he's pitching in.

Tonight's game could turn into a slugfest because of New York's familiarity with Tom Koehler and every team's familiarity with Bartolo Colon. The right-hander out of Stony Brook seems to be on the bump every time the Mets face the Marlins, and they've taken advantage this year with 12 runs scored off of him in six-and-two-thirds innings. Colon has been much more effective against the Marlins this year (three starts, 20.2 innings, eight runs allowed), but he's been whacked in two of his last three outings overall and is clearly the weak link in the rotation right now.

Date Time Television Mets Probable Starter Marlins Probable Starter
August 3, 2015 7:10 PM SNY Bartolo Colon Tom Koehler
August 4, 2015 7:10 PM SNY Jon Niese Brad Hand
August 5, 2015 7:10 PM SNY Matt Harvey David Phelps

The trades of Latos and Haren opened up a pair of slots in Miami's rotation: one for Urena, and one for someone else. For now, that someone else will be left-handed swingman Brad Hand instead of a more exciting youngster like Nicolino. In Hand's last start, he was shelled for six runs in Toronto and didn't make it out of the first inning. The 25-year-old has had some more successful starts this year, but he's still best used as a left-handed reliever or long man.

Still, Hand might cause trouble for the Mets seeing as so much of the team's offense has come from left-handed power lately. Hopefully Jon Niese can build on the momentum he started with his outing versus San Diego and counter whatever wizardry Hand has planned for New York.

Prediction: Mets win two of three.

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