It wasn't as easy as some of us thought it would be, but the Mets got back on track over the weekend with a sweep of Milwaukee to move their record to 25-18, which is one loss better than the Phillies, who just dropped two of three games to the terrible Braves. The front-runners from Washington, meanwhile, were busy taking care of business in Miami with wins in two of three games thanks to good starting pitching and some solid play from Anthony Rendon.
The young third baseman drove in three runs during his team's rubber game victory on Sunday and is a great example of a player who can step up and turn Washington's two-man offensive show starring Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy into something even more formidable. An incredible breakout 2014 campaign saw Rendon hit 21 home runs with an .824 OPS while looking like a future star. However, he struggled with injuries last year and had his power and contact figures decline in a big way.
This season, Rendon is making contact and walking plenty to give him a .351 on-base percentage, but his power hasn't yet returned to that 2014 level. Maybe a double and a triple on Sunday are a good sign, though. At 25 years old, the former first-round draft pick has plenty of time to figure things out as he avoids outs well enough to maintain a spot on the major league roster.
Someone else who can step up and help Washington's offense become great again is Ben Revere. Unlike Rendon, Revere is not someone who we normally have to wonder about. We know he's not going to draw a ton of walks, but we also know he's going to have a decent OBP thanks to his excellent contact skills and consistently high BABIP. Over the last three seasons, the outfielder's lowest batting average has been .305 and his lowest OBP has been .325. That's not to mention how much value Revere adds on the basepaths.
2016 has been a different story, but Revere may be in the process of turning things around. His .214 BABIP is more than 100 points lower than his career average, but it's rising now with multiple hits in his last three games. It's also hard to imagine Revere maintaining a 16-percent strikeout rate that is six percent greater than his career average. It's not impossible for a 28-year-old to see such a dramatic rise in strikeouts, but when you consider how Revere has been one of the most consistent players in the big leagues in recent seasons, the strikeouts do seem like something that should revert to normal.
It would be awesome for the Nationals if they could get more out of Jayson Werth, who is also striking out way more than he's used to and hitting for a low BABIP, as well as Ryan Zimmerman, who is 31 years old and only seems like he's been around forever. However, both guys are still older players coming off of injuries in 2015. The players we should look for to prop up the Washington offense are the steady Revere and the potential-filled Rendon, both of whom are more than talented enough to make a big difference this season.
The Mets are another team that could use an influx of production from its role players. It was great to get three wins after struggling so much against Colorado and Washington, but the Mets still scored fewer than four runs per game against a Milwaukee pitching staff that was giving up more than five per contest. One guy who we thought was going to a be a role player, Michael Conforto, has an extra base hit in each of his last three games and is helping Yoenis Cespedes carry the offense. While that's been happening, we keep talking about Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda needing to get on base more.
Granderson, for one, hit a home run and walked twice in New York's come-from-behind win on Saturday, but between that effort and his heroic one versus Washington last Tuesday, he went 0-for-12 with six strikeouts and zero walks. The Mets need to see more consistency out of players like Granderson and Walker, especially with Duda being placed on the disabled list to join Travis d'Arnaud. Despite the game-winning hit by David Wright on Saturday, if the captain keeps striking out and this rate, he's not going to be one of the stronger parts of the lineup.
|Date||Time||Television||Mets Probable Starter||Nationals Probable Starter|
|May 23, 2016||7:05 PM||SNY||Bartolo Colon||Gio Gonzalez|
|May 24, 2016||7:05 PM||SNY||Matt Harvey||Stephen Strasburg|
|May 25, 2016||1:05 PM||SNY, MLBN||Steven Matz||Tanner Roark|
Important stats: 48.1 IP, 40 K, 13 BB, 3 HR, 1.86 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 1.10 WHIP
Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (90 mph), changeup (82 mph), cuverball (76 mph)
Coming into last week's Nationals vs. Mets series, Gonzalez was working on a surprisingly successful campaign in which his strikeouts were lower than normal but so were his walks. Not much changed after his start in Queens on Wednesday, as he allowed one run with five strikeouts and one walk in six-and-one-third innings. While Gonzalez's improved control is admirable, it's unclear whether or not that's what is really helping him this year. His FIP is right at the same level it's been during the past two seasons, when the southpaw was striking out more batters but also walking more. Still, if the decline in strikeouts is not something that can be helped, it's a great thing for Gonzalez to limit the walks.
Mets opponent: Consistent right-handed pitcher Bartolo Colon had his most bizarre outing of the season last Wednesday when he walked five batters and allowed three runs in fewer than five innings against the Nationals. Four of those walks came back-to-back against the same two hitters, Werth and Harper. Walking Harper nowadays is nothing to be ashamed of, but the man hitting in front of him should see plenty of strikes, especially given his struggles this season. The startling lack of control showed by Colon made commentators wonder if he had been rattled by the tabloid headlines surrounding him that suddenly popped up last week. Hopefully, he can turn things around and give the Mets a chance to win on his 43rd birthday Tuesday night.
Important stats: 61.0 IP, 75 K, 16 BB, 4 HR, 2.80 ERA, 2.30 FIP, 1.08 WHIP
Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (95 mph), slider (89 mph), changeup (89 mph), curveball (81 mph)
When I said Strasburg was underrated last week, I was just trying to soften him up so he wouldn't slice through the Mets like a hot knife through butter. Unfortunately, he did just that with one run allowed in six innings with 10 strikeouts and one walk. The star right-hander is on pace to set career bests in strikeouts, ERA, and FIP. That's saying something considering how much he's already accomplished in his career, but he still hasn't gotten very close to a Cy Young Award. That's something that could change if Strasburg keeps pitching like he did in his latest outing.
Mets opponent: This Tuesday night matchup is going to be highly anticipated by baseball fans as Matt Harvey takes the hill against Strasburg in a rematch of what turned out to be a drubbing last week. As dominant as Strasburg looked, Harvey was the opposite while showing an inability to command his secondary pitches or overpower opponents with his fastball. The result was nine runs allowed (six earned) in fewer than three innings. A porous defense didn't help, and it's a good sign that Harvey is so willing to get back on the mound instead of looking for a medical reason to avoid pitching. Still, we're not going to believe that Harvey is effective again until he has a great performance against a quality opponent. Tuesday is another chance at that, but many fans will be watching in apprehension.
Important stats: 56.0 IP, 53 K, 22 BB, 3 HR, 2.89 ERA, 3.27 FIP, 1.25 WHIP
Favorite pitches: two-seam fastball (92 mph), slider (85 mph), curveball (78 mph), changeup (83 mph)
Roark was sneakily one of the National League's best pitchers in 2014 when he used outstanding control to post a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts. Then the Nats went out and acquired Max Scherzer and Doug Fister to push him out of the rotation in 2015. Splitting time between the bullpen and making spot starts last year, Roark saw his strikeouts go down and his home runs allowed go way up while he scuffled with a 4.38 ERA. Now back in the rotation full-time, the right-hander is trending in the opposite direction as Gonzalez with a higher strikeout rate and higher walk rate than he has shown before in his major league career. Even though Roark has walked multiple batters in every start and had some outings that turned out to be duds, the results are working overall. He has allowed just three home runs all year and has four starts this year with zero runs allowed and at least six innings pitched.
Mets opponent: Steven Matz left a pitch over the plate for Chris Carter to hit a home run on during the first inning of his latest start on Friday, but that didn't do much to upset the steady southpaw. He went on to hurl seven innings with eight strikeouts, zero walks, and two runs allowed. It was Matz's sixth straight outing with at least six innings pitched and fewer than three runs allowed. He's starting to get boring in a wonderful kind of way. Somehow the biggest piece of Matz news to focus on has been his elbow scare from earlier this month, but the under-the-radar youngster could be developing into one of the top lefties in baseball.
Felipe Rivero only faced three batters all weekend in Miami, so he'll be fresh and ready to go against a Mets lineup that we know is weak against left-handed pitching. Last week, Rivero made two appearances against the Mets and ended up with two scoreless innings. Meanwhile, Shawn Kelley continues to be underused by manager Dusty Baker, although it didn't help that the Mets were blown out twice by the Nationals in their recent series. Kelley has only thrown 15 innings this year despite zero runs allowed, 21 strikeouts, and two walks, and he faced just two batters a piece in Washington's last two series. Even closer Jonathan Papelbon was allowed to face four batters in the 9-1 victory for the Nationals last Thursday.
New York's bullpen might have struggled with its control against Washington, but it bounced back in the weekend series versus the Brewers with three straight scoreless performances in three straight close games. Particularly impressive were Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia, who each pitched a pair of shutout innings. Taking over the eight inning for Reed on Sunday was Jim Henderson, who bounced back from a couple of weak outings by getting three our of four batters out.
Prediction: Mets win two of three.
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