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Series Preview: Miami Marlins vs. New York Mets

Will the Mets ever lose again?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

What's the most surprising part about this pennant run by the Mets? Is it the stunning comebacks? The MVP-like brilliance of Yoenis Cespedes? How about the Marlins doing New York some favors for a change? Yes, the villains of years past may have slowed down the Mets' quest for the division title by dealing them a pair of one-run defeats during the first week of September, but then the Fish turned around and won their series versus the Nationals last weekend thanks to strong pitching performances by Jarred Cosart and Jose Fernandez in his return from injury.

I suppose winning two games against the Mets and winning two versus the Nats doesn't really do anyone a favor, but there is this: The Mets won't have to face either Cosart nor Fernandez in this week's series. That's a good thing when you consider that Cosart has allowed just a single run total in his last two starts against New York and that Fernandez should be a Cy Young contender next year.

Gordon has not been a Bour this year

So how about that Miami offense? We've talked about him in this space before, but Christian Yelich did a nice job turning around his injury-shortened season and still looks like an important part of his team's future. What's really jarring about that story in the link is that Yelich's year has been very similar to that of Dee Gordon, who was the talk of baseball during the first two months of the campaign.

Even though Gordon hasn't hit as well lately as he did in April and May, he's still looking like a three-win player for the second straight season thanks to his high BABIP, swift baserunning, and solid defense. The kid would be a real stud if he could bump his four-percent walk rate, but he's still fulfilled some of the potential that he showed in the Dodgers' farm system. With so much money tied up with Stanton, Miami is likely to let Gordon walk when he hits free agency in 2016 (or trade him during next season), which seems like a good idea because speed and defense don't tend to hold up well in long-term deals.

Someone who had a big impact on the last Mets/Marlins matchup was Justin Bour. The 27-year-old hit a pinch-hit home run on September 6 that erased New York's one-run lead and led to a Miami victory. Although Bour is old for a prospect, he only has 452 big league plate appearances under his belt, so there still might be some potential in the left-handed slugger's bat.

The 16 home runs he's hit in 369 plate appearances this year are certainly nice, and Bour's 21-percent strikeout rate isn't out of control. However, his .188 isolated power doesn't scream "starting first baseman," especially when you throw some below-average defense. Still, Bour is fighting for a spot on someone's roster in 2016, and he's sure to be in Miami's lineup with the Mets lining up three right-handed pitchers this week.

Can Colon continue to dominate Fish?

One of those right-handers is Bartolo Colon, the husky veteran who has been on fire since he pitched seven shutout innings at Philadelphia in late August. Even healthier for Colon's appetite than the Phillies this season are the Marlins, against whom the 42-year-old has a 2.15 ERA in 37.2 innings. The strikeouts haven't been there (just 16 total in five starts), but Colon has not walked a single Miami player to make up for it.

Colon's opponent on Wednesday will be Adam Conley, a rookie out of Washington State who spent the past three seasons in Miami's farm system. With eight strikeouts per nine innings this year, Conley is missing a fair amount of bats, but he's also using up a lot of pitches and not working deep into games. In his past three starts, the 25-year-old southpaw has failed to reach the sixth inning.

Date Time Television Marlins Probable Starter Mets Probable Starter
September 14, 2015 7:10 PM SNY Justin Nicolino Logan Verrett
September 15, 2015 7:10 PM SNY Tom Koehler Jacob deGrom
September 16, 2015 7:10 PM PIX 11 Adam Conley Bartolo Colon

On Tuesday, Jacob deGrom will face Tom Koehler, the right-hander who finally did something good against the Mets back on September 4. He has been hammered by New York all year but on that night limited our boys to two runs in six innings for a 6-5 Marlins win. Koehler kept the momentum going in his most recent outing with 10 strikeouts, two walks, and two runs allowed in eight innings versus Milwaukee. It will be interesting to see if the Mets can get back to crushing Koehler in the middle game of the series.

Tonight's game will likely be dubbed as postseason audition for Logan Verrett, the right-handed pitcher who has made just two appearances out of the bullpen for New York since his brilliant start in Colorado on August 23. With another performance like that one, Verrett could make a legitimate case for a role in the Mets' postseason bullpen or perhaps even as the fourth starter in the rotation.

He'll go up against another rookie in Justin Nicolino. This lefty is two years younger than Conley, but his strikeout rate has been almost nonexistent this year. With just 16 whiffs in 48.1 innings, Nicolino has got to start getting more ground balls if he wants to put himself in Miami's future plans.

Prediction: Mets win two of three.

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