clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Series Preview: New York Mets vs. Cincinnati Reds

The Reds are going to make it very tough for New York's losing ways to continue.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Hey, the Mets stink again! How cool is that? Not very if you ask me. The team has lost six of its last nine for three straight series defeats, and the journey to the division championship is turning into a much slower slog than fans would like. While it's frustrating to watch the Mets lose to teams that supposedly have nothing to play for, one also has to remember that the Mets are putting the health of their pitching staff above optimal performance on the field. Once the postseason begins (and it will still probably include the Mets given how Washington is playing), the Mets will get a fresh start and should be fully focused on winning.

Before that, though, there is still business to take care of. The magic number is down to five, which means that the Mets can come really close to clinching if they beat up on this Reds team that just lost four in a row, three of which came during their recent series in St. Louis.

Considering that the Reds have already traded away their most effective pitchers, this is a situation that the Mets should take advantage of. Of course, if New York was so good at beating bad teams, the champagne might have already been popped.

Votto is quietly having a ridiculous season

As questionable as the Cincinnati pitching staff is, the lineup still looks legit with Joey Votto in the middle of it. I feel like it was just yesterday that Votto was "walking too much" and not driving in enough runs. Well, the veteran slugger still isn't driving in many runs, but the rest of his game has been magnificent in 2015, and part of that is because he walking even more than he used to!

With a 21-percent walk rate, Votto has more bases on balls than strikeouts this year as well as a .462 on-base percentage. The real surprising part of Votto's campaign, though, is that his slugging percentage has spiked over 60 points since 2013, the last time he played a full season. 29 home runs with that sexy OBP would be enough to challenge for the MVP award in most years. Too bad things like RBIs and pennant race narratives exist.

What if the Mets had traded for Bruce?

It's great that Votto is hitting so well, because the Reds are stuck with him for eight more years. Jay Bruce, on the other hand, is only signed through 2016 and was being shopped by the team this July. Mets fans know this because in the morning hours of July 31, Bruce was rumored to be coming to Queens in exchange for Zack Wheeler. The deal didn't work out, and that's probably a good thing for both sides. It's good for Cincinnati because Wheeler had trouble going deep into games even before he had Tommy John Surgery, and it's good for the Mets because Bruce hasn't exactly been Yoenis Cespedes since the trade deadline.

In fact, Bruce has been pretty awful for the past two-and-a-half months. After a torrid build up to the deadline in which he hit .315/.360/.618, the lefty slugger sunk in August with a .477 OPS. He's hitting for more power in September (six homers already compared to two last month), but Bruce still only has a .271 OBP this month. If the Reds had pulled the trigger on that Bruce-for-Wheeler deal, the Mets would for sure be in a tighter division race right now.

Who the heck are these pitchers?

I'm not really sure, but I'm still kind of delirious after gorging on bagels last night following Yom Kippur. Josh Smith is a really old (28 years old) rookie who had a 2.90 FIP in 86.1 innings at Triple-A Louisville this year. So far in the majors, Smith has made four starts, and only one of them has not been a disaster. With 15 walks in 18.2 big league innings, the Mets should be patient with this guy.

Smith will be going up against Steven Matz, who has been surprisingly consistent since coming back from a lat injury that he suffered in July. The Reds know the lefty best from his major league debut, when he put on a show with both arm and bat. That was one of the more memorable Mets games this season, so let's show a highlight.

That was awesome, right? Anyway, the game on Friday will feature Anthony DeSclafani, the only Cincinnati starter in this series who has pitched for the team all season long. The Freehold, New Jersey native is working on his first full big league season with a 3.79 ERA and 3.64 FIP, which isn't really exciting. What's a little more enticing is the 10-strikeout performance DeSclafani had against St. Louis two starts ago. That made for a career high that he failed to build on during his most recent outing in Milwaukee (only three strikeouts with four runs allowed in fewer than five innings pitched).

For the Mets, Noah Syndergaard is coming off of a start in which he gave up five runs to the Yankees on two home runs, but he also struck out eight for the second straight game. That's a good sign for Thor and the Mets, as the youngster's strikeouts had been down for much of August.

The drama will heat up when Matt Harvey takes the hill against John Lamb for a Saturday matinee. Harvey's recent start versus the Yankees was marred with controversy not because of how good the right-hander looked in an artificially short five-inning performance, but of how the bullpen blew the lead shortly after. Trying to save your pitcher's arm looks like a fruitless endeavor when doing so results in a loss instead of a dominant outing.

It didn't help matters when Harvey failed to provide an adequate answer after the game with regards to who was in charge of his pitch count. Sandy Alderson has said since then that Harvey is doing what the Mets tell him to do, but this situation will only further escalate if the team drops another game by being cautious with its star pitcher.

Meanwhile, Lamb could be the toughest test for the Mets in this series. Not only does his left-handedness help neutralize the bats of Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, and Michael Conforto, but he's allowed zero runs in two of his last three starts. Lamb has posted impressive strikeout figures in the minors, and as a key piece of the Johnny Cueto trade, he's an important part of Cincinnati's future.

Date Time Television Mets Probable Starter Reds Probable Starter
September 24, 2015 7:10 PM SNY Steven Matz Josh Smith
September 25, 2015 7:10 PM SNY Noah Syndergaard Anthony DeSclafani
September 26, 2015 4:10 PM SNY Matt Harvey John Lamb
September 27, 2015 1:10 PM SNY Jacob deGrom Keyvius Sampson

Finally, Jacob deGrom will face off with Keyvius Sampson in the series finale on Sunday. Sampson was selected off of waivers from San Diego in January after he posted ridiculous walk rates at Triple-A last year. That problem hasn't been fixed, as the 24-year-old right-hander has walked around five batters per nine at every level he's stopped at in 2015. At least in the minors Sampson was getting a fair amount of strikeouts to help balance out the free passes, but in the big leagues, he's not getting enough whiffs. He was able to limit the Cardinals to one run in five innings during his last outing, but that is going to be tough to repeat unless Sampson improves his approach.

Mets fans will be more interested on Sunday to see how deGrom looks after the extra rest he was afforded between now and his September 15 start versus Miami. The ace of New York's staff has been rather pedestrian since late August, but that's no reason to panic about his performance yet.

Prediction: Mets win three of four.

Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is running a $1 million fantasy football league for Week 1. It's $5 to enter and first place wins $100,000. Enter now!