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The Rockies are in town for a four-game series, and the Mets need some wins

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The Mets must right their wobbly ship quickly or they'll find themselves much closer to Colorado than they'd like to be in the National League standings.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets are playing the Rockies in a four-game series starting on Thursday. Normally, that wouldn't be such exciting news, but this particular group of games start on a weekday afternoon. That's fun! Also, the Mets are in a tight postseason race and every game they play is meaningful. It kind of stinks that the team's mediocrity is becoming more apparently with every nine innings it plays, but at least we're at a better place than we were two years ago.

It's hard to say the same for Colorado, a franchise that has missed out on the postseason for six years in a row and probably will again this season as well. I feel for Rockies fans because they cheer hard for a team that doesn't win many games and that many people think would be better off in an environment better suited to playing baseball. Just compare the best pitchers in Colorado's history to the best hurlers that Miami --€” another franchise that began in 1993 -€”- has seen. This team and its front office are in a constant battle against the elements.

Rockies offense

Let's not turn this into a pity party, though. There are so many fun things about being a Rockies supporter, not the least of which is Nolan Arenado, the budding superstar who is being more selective at the plate now than in his outstanding 2015 campaign that featured 42 home runs. The best parts about Arenado aren't even his power, though. Not only is he one of the top defensive third baseman in baseball, but he's also not just a product of Coors Field. Even on the road this year, Arenado hits a robust .261/.327/.488 with 12 home runs.

The left side of Colorado's infield has become even more star-studded this season with the addition of Trevor Story. The talented shortstop might strike out in 32 percent of his plate appearances, but the other 68 percent have been pretty magical. Story has 27 home runs already thanks to a recent binge against Atlanta that saw him hit four in three games en route to National League Player of the Week honors. That home run total is even more impressive when you consider that the most ever hit by a rookie shortstop was 30 by Nomar Garciaparra in 1997.

Story isn't making contact like Garciaparra yet, but Rockies blog Purple Row explains that he's getting better in that regard.

"[I'm] adjusting to big league pitching, seeing all these guys for the first time, kinda getting used to the things that I'm seeing and the adjustments I need to make and making them quickly," the 23-year-old shortstop explained. One of his teammates, who is no slouch at the plate himself, concurs.

"I think the experience at the big leagues is obviously helping him, and he's experiencing the same pitchers over and over and he's getting a little comfortable with who he is as a ballplayer," Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado said. "When you see pitchers over and over you get more comfortable, you get more relaxed and you don't start forcing the issue."

Story isn't even the youngest member of Colorado's starting lineup. That title would go to 22-year-old David Dahl, who was just called up to the majors for the first time on Monday. Earlier this year, the young outfielder hit 13 home runs in half a season for the Hartford Yard Goats of the Eastern League before dominating his short stint at Triple-A Albuquerque with five home runs in just 16 games.

That was enough to get Dahl to the big leagues, where he joins an outfield that is already loaded with talent thanks to Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez. However, both of those players could be seeing their time with Colorado coming to a close. Although Blackmon and Gonzalez are two of their team's best offensive players, they are also two of its most movable assets. Blackmon still has two years of arbitration left, which makes him potentially useful to the Rockies, but it also makes him affordable for other clubs. Since he would be more than just a rental, Colorado could demand quite a haul in exchange for Blackmon's services. Gonzalez, on the other hand is due $20 million in 2017 before his Rockies contract expires. I'm sure ownership would love someone to take that deal off its hands because the club is still stuck paying Jose Reyes $22 million next year. Thanks to Gonzalez staying healthy and mashing 60 home runs over this season and 2015, Colorado can extract plenty of value in a trade even if they don't want to send a lot of cash.

Mets offense

Reyes strained an intercostal muscle during the doubleheader on Tuesday, and that means Terry Collins will have to pencil someone else into the leadoff spot for the next few games. On Wednesday night, that someone was Curtis Granderson and his .331 on-base percentage that is substantially higher than the .278 being produced by Reyes. No matter who bats first in his stead, you can expect Reyes to return to the top of the lineup once he's healthy because Collins has been very committed to the idea. I wonder if that is purely for nostalgic purposes or if he really thinks the New York offense is better off that way.

Either way, the Mets are probably better off with Reyes making outs at the bottom of the order or not at all. The minor injury will also give Wilmer Flores the opportunity to start for a while. After his 3-for-4 performance on Tuesday night, he is hitting .265/.322/.471 with 10 home runs this year.

Probable pitchers

Date Time Television Rockies Probable Starter Mets Probable Starter
July 28, 2016 1:10 PM SNY, MLBN Tyler Anderson Jacob deGrom
July 29, 2016 7:10 PM SNY Tyler Chatwood Steven Matz
July 30, 2016 7:10 PM SNY Jorge De La Rosa Bartolo Colon
July 31, 2016 1:10 PM SNY Chad Bettis Noah Syndergaard
Tyler Anderson

Important stats: 48.0 IP, 41 K, 10 BB, 4 HR, 3.56 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 1.29 WHIP

Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (91 mph), changeup (81 mph), cutter (86 mph)

This 26-year-old lefty has been a very pleasant addition to the Colorado rotation that is always in need of quality pitching. Despite six of his eight starts coming at Coors Field, Anderson has allowed three or fewer runs in seven of them. If the first round pick from 2011 is able to maintain that kind of consistency in his career, he'll rack up the wins with Colorado, but maybe he's too young and naïve to realize that his home park should be eating him alive as a rookie.

Mets opponent: Jacob deGrom was surprisingly lousy against the Marlins on Saturday. He allowed five runs and failed to escape the fourth inning, which made for his shortest start of the season by far. Bouncing back against an offense as good as Colorado's won't be easy, even at Citi Field. Then again, deGrom has only give up more than three runs in a start one other time this year, and it wasn't when he allowed three runs to the Rockies on May 15.

Tyler Chatwood

Important stats: 103.2 IP, 66 K, 46 BB, 7 HR, 3.65 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 1.37 WHIP

Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (92 mph), two-seam fastball (92 mph), cutter (86 mph)

It isn't often that you find a Rockies pitcher whose ERA is lower than it should be, but Chatwood might be that special guy. On one hand, he's doing what every Colorado pitcher should be doing by keeping the ball on the ground with his 58-percent ground ball rate. On the other, Chatwood walks four batters per nine innings while striking out fewer than six in return. That very low strikeout-to-walk ratio is usually a recipe for disaster. It has been for Chatwood, but only recently. During the first two months of the season, he walked 16 batters in 63.2 innings for a 2.69 ERA. That run of success included a win over the Mets on May 15 in which he allowed three runs in seven innings. In June and July, however, Chatwood has 30 walks in 40 innings for a 5.18 ERA, and he hasn't recorded an out in the sixth inning since June 11.

Mets opponent: Steven Matz was hammered by Miami during his first start of the season, but in two July outings against that team, he's been brilliant. The most recent one was on Sunday afternoon, when the young southpaw hurled six scoreless frames to lead New York to a 3-0 victory in an important rubber game. The recent success (22 strikeouts, eight walks, 3.24 ERA in July) is a good sign that Matz is adjusting well to the bone spur in his elbow and could continue to give the Mets quality innings down the stretch.

Jorge De La Rosa

Important stats: 79.0 IP, 65 K, 37 BB, 12 HR, 5.70 ERA, 5.10 FIP, 1.62 WHIP

Favorite pitches: splitter (82 mph), four-seam fastball (90 mph), cutter (86 mph), curveball (73 mph)

It's kind of sad to think that De La Rosa and his 4.62 career ERA are one of the top pitchers in Rockies history, but it's also impressive that the man spent nine seasons toiling away in Denver, where he must know his efforts go under-appreciated by the rest of the league. De La Rosa's perseverance has indeed been impressive, but he might not be persevering for much longer, as he is rumored to be on the trade block alongside slugger Blackmon and Gonzalez. The veteran lefty will be a free agent after this season, but to get something valuable in return, the Rockies must convince other clubs that his early-season struggles are behind him. De La Rosa has a 3.61 ERA in eight starts since rebounding from a groin injury and escaping from bullpen exile in mid-June.

Mets opponent: Bartolo Colon's most recent start was pushed back a day by rain, and that means he is going to pitch against the Rockies this Saturday on just three days of rest. The Mets are normally very careful to give their pitchers the proper amount of downtime, but given Colon's advanced age, the presence of a pennant chase, and the lack of quality alternative options, this seems like a respectable decision. It certainly helps that Colon's most recent start was one of his best of the season. He struck out eight Cardinals in seven innings on Tuesday night to lead the Mets to a 3-1 win.

Chad Bettis

Important stats: 121.1 IP, 92 K, 34 BB, 15 HR, 5.19 ERA, 4.20 FIP, 1.45 WHIP

Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (92 mph), slider (86 mph), two-seam fastball (91 mph), changeup (86 mph)

Bettis has had his shares of struggles this year, especially in May and June. However, lately he appears to be back on the right track with a 3.38 ERA during five starts in July. The right-hander is a ground-ball pitcher who misses a few more bats than Chatwood does, but Bettis has allowed almost twice as many home runs as his teammate. Even though Bettis has struggled with his control recently with three walks in each of his last three starts, the length of his outings has been consistently solid. Dating back to June 15, Bettis has completed the sixth inning in seven of eight starts.

Mets opponent: Speaking of length of starts, that's been an issue for Noah Syndergaard lately. The tall, glorious right-hander has failed to finish the sixth inning in three of his past five starts. I'll leave it up to you to decide if it's a good sign that Collins allowed Syndergaard to throw 114 pitches during his latest outing against St. Louis. We all want to think that the high count means there's less reason to worry about issues like a bone spur or arm fatigue that Thor has dealt with recently. However, New York's training staff doesn't have the highest of reputations, so cynical fans will probably be looking for the prized pitcher's arm to fall off on Sunday afternoon.

Bullpens

The Rockies' relief staff has been a bit of a tire fire this season, and it's not just because the closer they traded for during the offseason, Jake McGee, has seen his strikeout rate cut nearly in half. The former Tampa Bay reliever pitched well in May to bounce back from an ugly April, but then he hurt his knee in June. Since returning to action earlier this month, McGee has allowed seven runs in eight-plus innings while watching the lesser-known Carlos Estevez take over the closer's role.

The real ace of the Colorado bullpen, however, might be Boone Logan. The left-handed specialist has dramatically lowered his BABIP compared to his first two years with the Rockies, and that has caused his WHIP to drop from a maddening 1.61 to a more pleasant 0.86 figure.

Logan's left-handedness makes him a good candidate for the Mets to trade for, since they can use another lefty to compliment Jerry Blevins. We also could use a lot less of Antonio Bastardo, who has gone from interesting gamble to unreliable mess this year. Anyway, if the Mets want to take a shot at Logan, they should know that his improvements aren't all based on BABIP. He has also improved his walk rate in 2016 and is getting more ground balls than he ever has before.

Prediction: Mets win three of four.

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