In some ways this year is the same as last year, and in some ways it is quite different. Just like they were in 2015, the Mets are 54-50 after 104 games in 2016. However, the 104th game last year saw Lucas Duda hit two home runs with three RBI to lead New York to a 3-2 win over the rival Nationals that left Washington with just a one-game lead in the National League East.
Duda didn't play in the 104th game of 2016 because he's been out since late May with a back injury, but Neil Walker was in the lineup, and the veteran second baseman used his red-hot bat to carry the Mets to a win that they desperately needed. As fun as yesterday's win was, though, it only brought the Mets to within six-and-a-half games of Washington.
Instead of being on the verge of taking over the division like they were in 2015, the Mets are now two-and-a-half games shy of a Wild Card bid that carries with it the risk of an early exit from the postseason.
Just like last year, the Mets are in the process of acquiring a powerful bat at the trade deadline in exchange for a prospect who is close to contributing in the majors. However, unlike last year, New York's outfield is already pretty crowded. With Yoenis Cespedes in tow alongside Michael Conforto and Curtis Granderson, the best plan may have been to wait for the team to turn its fortunes around when there are runners in scoring position. On the other hand, Jay Bruce gives the Mets a weapon that doesn't need runners on base to be dangerous.
It's been well-documented that the Mets' .204 batting average with RISP is the worst mark in baseball, but we don't often hear about the statistic in a positive light. What would really be troubling would be if the Mets were batting .300 with RISP and still had this 54-50 record. That would be a cause for alarm and perhaps reason to acquire an extra bat or two since the offense might be due for regression. Instead, this unit has plenty of potential to come, especially now with Bruce in the fold.
The infield depth added by the Mets over the course of the season was starting to look like a weakness when Jose Reyes was taking at-bats away from capable guys like Wilmer Flores and Kelly Johnson, but now the two reserves are sorely needed due to the recent knee injury suffered by Asdrubal Cabrera. Terry Collins will have no choice but to find out what Flores and Johnson can offer him when they are placed in the lineup every day. If that output is anything like what we've seen from the pair so far, the Mets should be in good hands on the left side of the infield, at least on offense.
Mets fans are finally on top of the New York baseball world after all these years, but you can excuse them for still being a little jealous of the Yankees. After all, the Bronx Bombers have a defensive-minded shortstop who is producing big value thanks to a breakout season with the bat. That man is Didi Gregorius, the not-so-heralded replacement for Derek Jeter who the Yankees traded for before the 2015 season. The former Cincinnati and Arizona prospect has turned himself into a valuable and balanced player this year with a 12-percent strikeout rate, a career-high 11 home runs, and a career-high .450 slugging percentage. At 26 years old, he's someone who can be a solid shortstop for years to come.
You know who was also have a great year for the Yankees? Our old friend Carlos Beltran. The outfielder who also plays designated hitter has 22 home runs this season to go with a 134 wRC+ that is his highest mark since the Mets traded him away in 2011. With the Yankees in sell mode right now, it makes sense that the team is shipping him to Texas in exchange for prospects. Even though Beltran wasn't a good fit for the National League due to all the time he spent at DH, it's surprising the Mets weren't mentioned in rumors. We already know they enjoy bringing back 2006 division champions and putting guys in center field who don't belong there.
By the time tonight's game starts,
|Date||Time||Television||Yankees Probable Starter||Mets Probable Starter|
|August 1, 2016||7:10 PM||SNY, ESPN||CC Sabathia||Logan Verrett|
|August 2, 2016||7:10 PM||WPIX||Masahiro Tanaka||Jacob deGrom|
Important stats: 107.0 IP, 81 K, 40 BB, 9 HR, 3.95 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 1.35 WHIP
Favorite pitches: sinker (89 mph), four-seam fastball (89 mph), slider (80 mph), changeup (83 mph)
Sabathia still has one vesting year left on the massive extension he signed with the Yankees before the 2012 season. Based on the two campaigns before this one, you'd think the big lefty would have outstayed his welcome, but he's still getting things done at age 36 despite a strikeout rate that is plummeting towards oblivion. In fact, Sabathia had a 3.17 ERA through the first three months of the season before struggling through July with 21 runs given up in 30.1 innings. During his most recent outing, he appeared to right the ship with five strikeouts, two walks, and two runs allowed in six-and-two-thirds innings at Houston.
Mets opponent: Speaking of righting the ship, we haven't heard many rumors linking the Mets to starting pitching talent, and that probably has a lot to do with how Logan Verrett played last Wednesday against St. Louis. The 26-year-old right-hander got through seven innings against a tough Cardinals lineup while striking out seven batters and only surrendering three runs. With a 3.44 ERA in his last three starts, Verrett has at least made the case for him to be useful to the Mets in the race for the postseason.
Important stats: 134.0 IP, 108 K, 27 BB, 12 HR, 3.16 ERA, 3.34 FIP, 1.11 WHIP
Favorite pitches: splitter (86 mph), slider (84 mph), sinker (90 mph)
Tanaka's stuff might no longer be as impressive as it was two years ago when he burst into the league and posted 141 strikeouts in 136.1 innings with a 2.77 ERA. However, he's still very good at avoiding walks and has been the Yankees' most steady pitcher all season long. Elbow troubles held Tanaka to just 44 starts over his first two seasons in the majors, but in 2016 he's on track to set career highs in starts as well as innings pitched.
Mets opponent: deGrom bounced back beautifully from his rough July 23 outing in Miami with seven scoreless innings against Colorado last Thursday. That effort might not have been enough to get New York a victory, but it went a long way towards cementing deGrom's status as the ace of the pitching staff. Since the beginning of June, he has 72 strikeouts and 11 walks in 64.2 innings with a 2.37 ERA.
With the scoreless inning he pitched during Sunday's win, Addison Reed matched Aaron Heilman's franchise record for holds in a season with 26. No, I didn't know that Heilman was a Mets record holder either, but there you have it. Reed is certainly deserving of the accomplishment given how outstanding he has been in 2016. It's hard to believe this guy is the same pitcher who was walking three batters per nine innings as recently as a year ago in Arizona. Fans should give a lot of credit to the front office as well as pitching coach Dan Warthan for what has been of the Mets' best under-the-radar acquisitions in the Alderson era.
One move that didn't work out quite as well as the August trade to bring in Reed was the deal the Mets made for Tyler Clippard last year. He didn't pitch especially poorly for the Mets, but he wasn't particularly good either with a 6.59 ERA in September and two runs surrendered in New York's loss in Game 4 of the World Series. Anyway, the point is that Clippard was just acquired by the Yankees, perhaps to give their bullpen some kind of bite after the club traded away Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller for prospects. With a 4.30 ERA and 1.30 WHIP, Clippard was in the midst of his worst season since he broke in with the Yankees in 2007, but the Bombers are hoping that he can perform more like his old self and become a quality set-up man in the new bullpen.
Prediction: Mets split first two games of the series.
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