Not every magical season has a magical beginning. Just a year ago, the Mets began the 2015 campaign with two wins and three losses before rolling off 11 straight victories and capturing the league's attention. Maybe this year the team continues to struggle in April instead of going on a ridiculous hot streak. But then again, maybe this year the Mets have a roster deep enough to avoid another swoon in June and July.
The point is, it's too early to tell if New York is destined for a second straight division championship, something the franchise has never accomplished in its 55-year history. We don't know yet if another mediocre Matt Harvey start is a sign of things to come or just a blip on the radar that we'll forget about in the months to come. Is Jacob deGrom just going to miss this one turn in the rotation, or will it turn into more? On the bright side, perhaps David Wright will be buoyed by the occasional day of rest and continue to hit opposite-field doubles and get on base.
The only thing for certain is that we would all feel better if the Mets defeat the Miami in their three-game series that starts on Monday night at Citi Field. The Marlins are coming off of two straight losses to Washington sandwiched around a rained-out game on Saturday. They're supposed to be another one of those teams that the Mets get fat on while battling towards a trip to the postseason. Of course, we think that about Philadelphia as well.
Unlike that team the Mets just lost to, Miami has some players who are among the best in the majors at what they do. Giancarlo Stanton might be the top power hitter in baseball with at least 20 home runs in each of his six big league seasons, and he's still only 26 years old. Wow.
Who knows what kind of season Stanton might have had in 2015 had he not missed half of it with a broken bone in his hand? In the 74 games the right fielder was healthy for, he hit .265/.346/.606 with an incredible 27 homers. So far this season, Stanton has a measly one home run in four games, but he has at least one hit in all four and at least one RBI in three of them.
The other headliner for Miami is Dee Gordon, the speed demon who had a career year in 2015 after a trade from the Dodgers to the Marlins. Although he did most of his damage in the beginning of the season, Gordon still finished with a .777 OPS and 58 stolen bases. In 2016, he's off to another hot start with eight hits, including two doubles and two triples, in his first four games. He's yet to steal a base, and perhaps the Mets can keep it that way with the way they've been throwing out potential thieves. Starting catcher Travis d'Arnaud is struggling at the plate, but at least he's put a stop to two of the four stolen base attempts against him.
Speed at the top and power in the middle are great ingredients to start an offense with, but Miami is still looking for the complimentary pieces to fill out the lineup. Left fielder Christian Yelich is coming off a second straight solid campaign, but he is yet to show the double-digit home run power that can turn him into an even bigger threat. Two years ago, Yelich, along with Stanton and Marcell Ozuna looked like beginnings of a superstar outfield, but a disastrous 2015 season by Ozuna put a stop to that kind of talk. Still, the youth and raw talent still owned by all three guys could make the Marlins a team that sneaks up on the league.
Keeping Miami off the scoreboard could be an issue for the Mets with Jacob deGrom out of the rotation with a lat injury. Still, there are plenty of other reasons to be excited about New York pitching this week. First, we get to see the 2016 debut of Steven Matz, who struggled early in spring training but looked like a Rookie of the Year candidate in his final two preseason outings. We also know that ESPN's Karl Ravech is impressed with the young southpaw. On Tuesday, Noah Syndergaard takes the hill for the first time since dominating the Royals on April 5.
If the right-hander can bring that kind of stuff all season long, the Mets won't suffer through too many losing streaks. It also helps that another solid bullpen arm could be developing in Jim Henderson. Considered an afterthought for much of spring training, the Muppet master has looked like a vintage version of himself with seven strikeouts in three perfect innings so far.
As long as the rest of the pitchers do their jobs, there won't be too much pressure on Logan Verrett to replace deGrom's production in the series finale on Wednesday. The substitute starter didn't inspire much confidence when he allowed a run to the Phillies in relief on Sunday, but he proved to be a reliable swingman for New York in 2015 with a 0.88 WHIP in 38.2 innings.
Of course, the Marlins have a pitching ace of their own in right-hander Jose Fernandez, who looked like his old self after returning from Tommy John rehab in July of last season. He struck out 79 batters and walked just 14 in 64.2 innings. However, this Tuesday will be the first time the Mets are seeing Fernandez up close since he underwent the arm surgery. After striking out 13 batters in his 2016 debut (albeit while allowing five runs to Detroit), he's probably excited about facing a Mets lineup that struggled to solve Vince Velasquez and Jeremy Hellickson.
|Date||Time||Television||Marlins Probable Starter||Mets Probable Starter|
|April 11, 2016||7:10 PM||SNY, ESPN||Jarred Cosart||Steven Matz|
|April 12, 2016||7:10 PM||SNY||Jose Fernandez||Noah Syndergaard|
|April 13, 2016||1:10 PM||SNY, MLBN||Adam Conley||Logan Verrett|
Fortunately, the other two starters for Miami aren't as intimidating. Jarred Cosart makes his first start of 2016 on Monday night after missing about half of 2015 due to vertigo. With around six strikeouts and four walks per nine innings last year, he's a guy who is highly dependent on his ground ball rate and the Miami defense to succeed. On Wednesday, the Mets will face their first left-handed starter of the season as Adam Conley toes the rubber. After starting 2015 in the bullpen, he made some solid starts towards the end of the year, including one that featured seven shutout innings at Citi Field.
With Wednesday's game starting in the early afternoon, don't be surprised if Terry Collins rests players like Michael Conforto and Neil Walker who are weaker against lefties. That game seems to be a good time to get bench bats like Juan Lagares and Wilmer Flores into the lineup, even if I'd rather Lagares fill in for Yoenis Cespedes or Curtis Granderson and not Conforto. We could also see David Wright get the night off on Tuesday so that he's fresh for some lefty mashing in a potential rubber game.
Prediction: Mets win two of three.
Editor's Note: Win cash in your first daily fantasy baseball league or get your entry fee refunded! Offered in partnership with FanDuel. Here's the link.