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Even though they are doomed, the Mets will play the Padres this weekend

Contrary to popular belief, the season isn’t over quite yet.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

You don’t have to read more than one story about the Mets these days to know that a lot of fans are probably writing the team off as far as the 2016 season is concerned. After being swept by the Diamondbacks — a three-game stretch that culminated with an embarrassing 9-0 defeat on Thursday afternoon — New York is three games behind Miami for the coveted second Wild Card spot in the National League. That wouldn’t even be too much of a problem, but the Mets will also have to fend off Pittsburgh and St. Louis from the NL Central if they hope to make another postseason run. Both clubs are currently closer to catching the Marlins than the Mets are.

With his team having gone 10-16 since the All-Star break to fall back to .500, you can understand why Terry Collins was frustrated enough to vent during his postgame press conference on Thursday. It’s safe to say that New York will need the best effort from all 25 of its players in order to get back in the postseason hunt. That quest begins on Friday night against San Diego, a team that has traded away many good players this season.

Padres offense

With Matt Kemp and Melvin Upton Jr. now playing for Atlanta and Toronto, respectively, the San Diego lineup is full of unfamiliar faces. Perhaps the only famous name left is Wil Myers, and he’s in the middle of his best ever campaign with 22 home runs and a 131 wRC+.

Batting two spots behind Myers in the cleanup spot will be Alex Dickerson, a 26-year-old rookie who has shown an impressive combination of contact and power so far. Even though Dickerson has seven home runs in his 123 plate appearances, he’s only striking out 11 percent of the time, the same rate he sported at Triple-A El Paso this year. If that contact skill is indeed translating to the big leagues, Dickerson has a chance to be a major building block for the Padres.

The other building blocks appear to be farther away from the majors, but second baseman Ryan Schimpf has made a good impression so far. The left-handed slugger almost exclusively plays against right-handed pitching, but his 10 home runs in just 169 plate appearances is still nothing to sneeze at. He whiffs a lot more than Dickerson, but Schimpf also knows how to draw a walk and he would be hitting even better than .210/.343/.529 if his .221 BABIP was a little closer to league average.

Because of how the Mets have allowed baserunners to loot like crazy, their most dangerous opponent this weekend could be Travis Jankowski, who is fourth in the NL with 25 stolen bases despite logging just 223 plate appearances. Now firmly entrenched at the top of the Padres’ batting order, Jankowski has used a 14-percent walk rate and .378 BABIP to achieve a .376 on-base percentage. That figure is pretty good for any player, but it’s especially impressive (and a bit fluky) for a guy who strikes out as much as Jankowski and hits for so little power. The Mets should give this guy plenty of pitches to hit.

Mets offense

When you get shut out by Braden freaking Shipley and the Arizona bullpen, there’s a good chance that your offense stinks. The Mets’ offense does indeed stink, especially now that Yoenis Cespedes has spent a week on the disabled list. At least Jay Bruce is hitting a little bit with two home runs in nine games since his August 2 debut, and it will be interesting to see if the Mets pick up Bruce’s $13 million option for 2017. While the deal is affordable for someone who can hit 30 home runs in a season, there won’t be a lot of room in the outfield for Bruce if Cespedes decides not to opt out of his own contract.

That’s why even if the Mets don’t pick up their play as we get closer to September, it will still be worth fans’ time to monitor the performance of Bruce as well as fellow outfielders Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto. How all three guys play at the plate and in the field will factor into how the front office handles the 2016-17 offseason. If both Granderson and Conforto prove themselves worthy of starting roles for 2017, it’s going to be tough to fit Bruce in even if Cespedes decides to leave.

Probable pitchers

Date Time Television Padres Probable Starter Mets Probable Starter
August 12, 2016 7:10 PM SNY Paul Clemens Logan Verrett
August 13, 2016 7:10 PM WPIX Jarred Cosart Jacob deGrom
August 14, 2016 1:10 PM WPIX Clayton Richard Steven Matz
Paul Clemens

Important stats: 27.1 IP, 21 K, 14 BB, 9 HR, 4.61 ERA, 7.63 FIP, 1.46 WHIP

Favorite pitches: two-seam fastball (92 mph), curveball (75 mph), changeup (83 mph)

If you don’t recognize any of the names on San Diego’s pitching staff this weekend, it’s probably not your fault. Every member of the team’s Opening Day rotation is now either on a different team or on the disabled list. In their places are a mix of not-ready-for-primetime youngsters and over-the-hill veterans. As a 28-year-old jounrneyman, Clemens might not fit into either category, but here he is starting for the Padres after being waived by Miami earlier this season. Since joining San Diego, he’s bounced back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation while giving up at least one home run in all three of his starting opportunities. As if you couldn’t tell from his stats, he’s not related to Roger Clemens.

Mets opponent: Just when we were thinking Logan Verrett might be halfway decent, he went out and got smashed by Detroit during last Saturday’s road game. It was bad enough that the fill-in starter gave up six runs in just three-and-two-thirds innings, but it felt even worse afterwards because if he gave up just one run fewer, the Mets might have had a chance to win. Oh well. That’s all water under the bridge now, as they say. San Diego’s lineup isn’t nearly as fearsome as Detroit’s, so perhaps Verrett will bounce back and get the Mets back on track.

Jarred Cosart

Important stats: 28.0 IP, 19 K, 22 BB, 1 HR, 5.79 ERA, 4.70 FIP, 1.86 WHIP

Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (92 mph), knuckle curve (78 mph), sinker (93 mph)

Here’s a San Diego pitcher that you might recognize! Just like Clemens, Cosart pitched for Miami earlier this season. Unlike Clemens, Cosart was involved in the trade that sent Andrew Cashner to South Florida in exchange for a prospect package. At 26 years of age, Cosart is hardly a prospect anymore, but he still does have value as someone who can throw pretty hard and get a bunch of ground balls. Back on April 11, the right-hander allowed three runs in four-and-two-thirds innings in a loss to the Mets, and his stint with San Diego is off to a similarly inauspicious start.

Mets opponent: Jacob deGrom has been the one shining hope in this dismal grind of a second half that the Mets are putting their fans through. Despite walking more than one batter for the first time in five starts on Sunday, he still held Detroit to one run in six-and-two-thirds innings. Thanks to some late heroic offense by Neil Walker, that turned out to be enough to get New York the win. Oddly enough, deGrom has only two starts since April (and none since early June) in which he has walked zero batters, so that’s something to shoot for against the Padres on Saturday.

Clayton Richard

Important stats: 15.1 IP, 10 K, 9 BB, 0 HR, 6.46 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 2.22 WHIP

Favorite pitches: two-seam fastball (92 mph), four-seam fastball (92 mph), changeup (85 mph)

Hey, I’m just like you. I’m also surprised that Richard is still around. And that he’s only 32 years old. And that he used to play quarterback for Michigan. Wait, never mind. I remembered that last part. Anyway, the veteran southpaw has bounced around the league for the past few years, but he’s finally back in the bigs with the club he’s had the most success with. Richard started the 2016 campaign in the Cubs’ bullpen, but they released him about a week ago shortly after they acquired a slightly more dominant relief lefty in Aroldis Chapman. The Padres saw a usable arm and pounced on the opportunity. Now Richard is set to make his first start of the season thanks to San Diego’s new six-man rotation. He wasn’t very effective as a reliever this year, so hopefully the Mets do something against him.

Mets opponent: Before the New York bullpen blew his 3-2 lead on Tuesday night, Steven Matz was having one of his best outings in a while. He struck out nine Arizona batters in just six innings and the only two runs he allowed were on solo home runs. Perhaps the solid performance is a sign that Matz is returning to his dominant form that we saw earlier in the season. That would be nice, because the Mets can’t afford to give up many runs nowadays.

Bullpens

With former San Diego closer Fernando Rodney being traded to greener pastures in Miami on the last day of June, Brandon Maurer has taken over the ninth inning job, and he’s even done a nice job with it too. Since the start of July, he has a 2.35 ERA with 13 strikeouts and two walks in 15.1 innings. The Padres have also seen good performances lately from rookie right-hander Ryan Buchter, who has 66 strikeouts but also 24 walks in his 50.2 innings for a 2.66 ERA.

It’s pretty clear that Collins only trusts three right-handers in New York’s bullpen. Jeurys Familia and Addison Reed have had their bumps in the road, but both guys have by and large been solid. Meanwhile, Hansel Robles has gone into another rut with six runs given up in his last three appearances. He’s worked 54.1 innings innings already in 2016, and the beatings will continue until morale improves... or until Sandy Alderson acquires a trustworthy middle reliever to shoulder some of the workload.

Prediction: Mets sweep!

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