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Series Preview: New York Mets vs. Miami Marlins

The Mets promise to counter the air conditioning of Marlins Park with the heat of their pennant race.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Considering how the Mets played for much of August, the 3-3 record they posted on their recent homestand against the Red Sox and Phillies was a bit disappointing. That seven-game winning streak wasn't going to last forever, but the Mets are now just one good month of baseball away from the fabled postseason, where they haven't been since 2006. The quest for greatness continues with a nine-game road trip against division rivals not from Philadelphia. All eyes will be focused on the three games in Washington that kick off next week, but it's just as important for the Mets to take care of business against Miami and Atlanta.

First up are the Marlins, who just swept the hapless Braves in Atlanta and are returning home to celebrate Star Wars Night. That should prove to be a fun distraction from the turmoil that is happening off the field for Miami. Is Marlins ownership going to ask Dan Jennings to change jobs again? Why isn't Giancarlo Stanton back yet? These are the questions that Miami fans are asking in September while Mets fans are consumed by a fun pennant race.

What are the Marlins doing with Jennings?

Mets fans have had their share of ownership and general manager drama through the years, but it's tough to compare any of that to what the Marlins are going through right now. Back at the beginning of the year, Mike Redmond was fired as manager and replaced by none other than general manager Dan Jennings, who had never been a skipper professionally before. After that move failed to turn the team's fortunes around (a real shocker), the Marlins are thinking of asking Jennings to return to his old job.

It seems like Jennings was merely acting as a placeholder for an ownership that clearly wanted Redmond gone but did not want to pay for a replacement. If Jennings agrees to play GM again, he can get back to building a franchise that looked to be on the right track at the outset of the season. Stanton is still signed to a long-term deal and Jose Fernandez looked sharp when he was healthy enough to play. There's also some other high-upside youngsters on the roster like Henderson Alvarez (also injured) and Christian Yelich.

After being kicked around by Miami, though, Jennings might opt to take another job, like that open one in Seattle or perhaps Detroit. It will be an interesting situation to monitor this autumn.

Harpooned fish

The real problem for the Marlins this year hasn't been the manager or ownership, but injuries. Not only have Fernandez and Alvarez combined to make only 11 starts, but Stanton has been out with a broken hamate bone in his left hand for much longer than expected. The All-Star slugger was supposed to finally return from the disabled list tonight versus the Mets, but a recent setback on his rehab assignment has put that notion in jeopardy. I'm sure the Marlins would love to see Stanton get back to crushing home runs again before the season is done, but there's no reason to rush him back if he's still feeling discomfort in his hand.

Last year, Stanton ended the season on the disabled list after taking a Mike Fiers fastball to the face. If there was any concern about him returning to his old ways in 2015, that was erased when he slugged 27 home runs in his first 74 games. As gruesome as that facial injury was, this hamate bone could prove more troublesome for Stanton's long-term future, as it is more directly involved in the right-hander's powerful swing.

Right now, Miami's top priority should be making sure its stars align at full health in time for 2016 Opening Day. While Fernandez could be back before the end of this year with his biceps strain, Alvarez might still be recovering from shoulder surgery in spring training. On the offensive side, Yelich appears to have recovered from a knee contusion that forced him onto the disabled list in August. He's still a big part of Miami's future, especially if his power starts to show more in the majors. Meanwhile, Adeiny Hechavarria, who leads Miami with 130 games played this year, is day-to-day with a hamstring issue.

Thor gives his hammer a break

Noah Syndergaard has struggled with his strikeout rate recently, so this seems like as good a time as any to give the right-hander a break and try to get him in top form for the remainder of the campaign. In his place will be Steven Matz, who looked terrific in two big league starts before hitting the disabled list with a lat injury, and Bartolo Colon, the 42-year-old who looked to be washed up but is suddenly on fire again.

The local boy Matz was an instant crowd favorite when he was called up earlier in the summer, and life is always more fun when Colon is playing well. That's why it should be an exciting weekend on the mound for the Mets even with Syndergaard and Harvey on the mend. The way Colon has pitched lately (17 strikeouts, three walks, zero runs in his last two starts), it almost makes Jacob deGrom seem like chopped liver. The younger right-hander is just one start removed from a disaster outing in Philadelphia, but he used that one start to strike out 10 Red Sox batters in just six innings.

There will be some familiar faces on the hill opposing New York. First up is Tom Koehler, the right-hander whom the Mets have destroyed this year. In 11 innings pitched against the orange and blue in 2015, Koehler has allowed a whopping 19 runs, including seven in a 12-1 defeat back on August 3. With a strikeout-to-walk ratio of just under 2:1, Koehler hasn't had a ton of success against the rest of the league either. His FIP this season is 4.60 to go with a 4.12 ERA.

Perhaps a bigger threat to the Mets is Brad Hand, the left-handed fill-in starter who pitched out of the bullpen for most of the year before moving into the rotation due to Miami's injuries. Back when it was April and Hand was working out of the bullpen, he allowed three runs to the Mets in three-and-two-third innings spread over three games. New York wouldn't see him again until August 4, when Hand was transitioning into the rotation and pitched four shutout innings before being relieved. Since becoming a starter at the start of August, Hand has pitched pretty well, with 26 strikeouts and seven walks in 35.2 innings for a 3.79 ERA.

Date Time Television Mets Probable Starter Marlins Probable Starter
September 4, 2015 7:10 PM SNY Jacob deGrom Tom Koehler
September 5, 2015 7:10 PM PIX 11 Bartolo Colon Brad Hand
September 6, 2015 1:10 PM SNY Steven Matz Chris Narveson

Matz is supposed to face off against Chris Narveson in the series finale, but the 33-year-old former Milwaukee starter's status is up in the air after he was forced out of his latest start with a blister. Narveson could be replaced by Jarred Cosart, who is currently working in the minor leagues. The former Phillies prospect hasn't been able to translate his fastball/curve combination into a decent major league strikeout rate yet. Against the Mets on April 16, he struck out five batters in five-and-one-third innings, but also allowed five runs.

Prediction: Mets sweep!

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