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Mets welcome snake-bitten Diamondbacks for three games in Queens

It’s been over a month since the Mets have won two in a row. Perhaps a meeting with Arizona can fix that.

Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

If you thought the Mets were having a rough season, maybe the story of the 2016 Diamondbacks will cheer you up. After the club made big moves during the offseason to acquire starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller, it was expected to compete for a National League West title. With the arms in tow to complement an already fearsome lineup led by Paul Goldschmidt and rising star A.J. Pollock, Arizona was supposed to be a force to be reckoned with.

Instead, the Diamondbacks have seen a disastrous campaign from Miller and a mediocre one from Greinke help bury them in the standings. Before the season even started, Pollock broke his elbow while sliding into home plate, an injury that makes it tough for the offense to keep up with a pitching staff that is worst in the league in ERA.

Diamondbacks offense

It’s not as though Arizona has had trouble scoring runs, though. The continued greatness of Paul Goldschmidt and a breakout campaign from third baseman Jake Lamb have kept the lineup humming along with a team-wide .747 OPS. In just his second big league season, Lamb is batting .287/.361/.593 with a whopping 24 home runs. If he’s able to keep that up, the Diamondbacks could own the starting corner infielders at the next few All-Star Games.

Lamb isn’t the only pleasant surprise for Arizona, though. Jean Segura came over in a trade with the Brewers and is hitting for even more power than he showed during his rookie year of 2013 when he looked like the shortstop of the future for Milwaukee. With an improved walk rate to go with his .455 slugging percentage and 10 home runs, Segura appears back on track to being an impact offensive player in the long-term.

Another talented youngster in Arizona’s lineup is Yasmany Tomas, the 25-year-old Cuban defector who has added over 100 points to his slugging percentage since last year. Currently hitting .272/.313/.503 with 21 home runs, Tomas could be a future star if he works on his outfield defense and becomes more selective with his swings. The former third baseman doesn’t rank well with his fielding, but he hasn’t been playing the outfield full-time for very long.

Mets offense

The Mets’ offense as a whole might not be performing like it did during April, but at least Neil Walker is. The switch-hitting second baseman played the hero with a game-winning home run on Sunday afternoon, and he’s now hitting .469/.490/.735 in his last 12 games. That’s a far cry from the guy who looked like he needed to be benched for Kelly Johnson in mid-July. Despite his struggles at the plate for a large portion of the 2016 season, Walker leads the Mets in FanGraphs WAR thanks to his solid defense at the keystone.

Probable pitchers

Date Time Television Diamondbacks Probable Starter Mets Probable Starter
August 9, 2016 7:10 PM SNY Zack Greinke Steven Matz
August 10, 2016 7:10 PM SNY Robbie Ray Bartolo Colon
August 11, 2016 12:10 PM SNY Braden Shipley Noah Syndergaard
Zack Greinke

Important stats: 109.1 IP, 91 K, 21 BB, 12 HR, 3.62 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 1.16 WHIP

Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (91 mph), slider (86 mph), changeup (88 mph), two-seam fastball (91 mph)

Throughout the winter we heard from baseball analysts about how the Dodgers had made a major mistake letting Greinke walk away after his legendary 2015 campaign in which he posted a 1.66 ERA. Hey, it turns out that one of the smartest front offices in baseball knows what it’s doing some of the time. While the Dodgers could certainly use some extra starting pitching help this year, topping Arizona’s free agent offer would have meant making a huge commitment to a player who is 32 years old and saw his ERA deflated by a .229 BABIP and 87-percent strand rate last year. Just because a team can afford to hand out bad contracts doesn’t mean that it’s obligated to.

Although Greinke got off to a horrid start this April, he had been steadily improving his game until an oblique injury derailed his campaign on June 28. After a month on the disabled list, the right-hander has been activated and will be making his first start since the injury against the Mets.

Mets opponent: No matter how hard he tries, Matz hasn’t been able to regain the consistency that made him one of the top pitchers in baseball over the first two months of the season. During his last start, he was shelled by the Yankees for six runs in six innings, but at least he stuck out six batters while only walking one. Since lefties have had a little more success against Matz than right-handed batters this year, it will be interesting to see if Arizona manager Chip Hale puts platoon lefties like Michael Bourn and Socrates Brito in his lineup.

Robbie Ray

Important stats: 121.0 IP, 152 K, 47 BB, 17 HR, 4.83 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 1.50 WHIP

Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (94 mph), slider (84 mph), two-seam fastball (93 mph)

Ray has been oddly consistent this year in that his lowest monthly ERA is 4.39 in May and his highest is 4.97 in April. With the way he’s blown away opponents this year with 11.31 strikeouts per nine innings, Ray has a chance to make a name for himself in the majors, but he’s also allowing a lot of men on base with his 3.50 walks per nine and .365 BABIP against. Still, Arizona has to be pleased with the way the 24-year-old southpaw’s stuff has developed this year.

Mets opponent: Colon might be the polar opposite of Ray, so it will be interesting to see the two go head-to-head on Wednesday night. While Ray is young and has a high ERA despite great stuff, Colon is quite old and has managed to keep his ERA below 3.50 despite almost exclusively favoring his 90-mile-per-hour fastball. During his last outing, the veteran continued his pattern of alternating bad starts and good starts with six innings of one-run ball in the Bronx. Hopefully the trend is finally upset this week.

Braden Shipley

Important stats: 17.1 IP, 10 K, 11 BB, 4 HR, 4.15 ERA, 6.88 FIP, 1.62 WHIP

Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (91 mph), curveball (79 mph), changeup (85 mph), two-seam fastball (90 mph)

Despite his modest stats at Double-A Mobile last year, Shipley entered the season as a top prospect in Arizona’s system. A 3.70 ERA in 19 Pacific Coast League starts earned him a promotion to the majors on July 25, when he was rudely greeted by the Brewers with three home runs in five-and-one-third innings. Shipley threw six scoreless frames against the Dodgers in his next start and then got some measure of revenge on Milwaukee when he allowed two runs in six innings despite walking six batters and striking out just two. One would hope that if Shipley walks that many batters on Thursday that the Mets will take advantage, but this hasn’t been able to take advantage of anything this season.

Mets opponent: Noah Syndergaard struck out seven batters in six innings during his most recent start in Detroit, but he was still plagued by the same issues that have made the second half of his season less than spectacular. For the third straight time, the big right-hander threw more than 110 pitches in six innings while allowing at least three runs. He has also walked either two or three batters in his last five outings. Those figures aren’t terrible when you consider that Syndergaard is still getting his strikeouts, but the free passes are contributing to his high pitch counts and rising ERA.

Bullpens

Arizona’s bullpen wasn’t much better than its starting rotation during the first half of the season, but the front office still got something in return for both Tyler Clippard and Brad Ziegler at the trade deadline. The moves have left a rag-tag bunch of relievers in charge of protecting leads. New closer Jake Barrett is struggling with control issues, while set-up men Daniel Hudson and Randall Delgado each have a WHIP over 1.50.

Jeurys Familia has bounced back nicely from his back-to-back blown saves on July 27 and 28. In his four appearances since then, he’s saved three games with four scoreless innings pitched, six strikeouts, and one walk. The most important stat there is the one walk allowed since Familia walked two batters each during those two blown saves. As dominant as he can look when he’s on, Familia still has outings where it seems like he doesn’t know where his incredible sinker is headed. When it’s in the strike zone, it’s almost impossible for opposing offenses to be productive.

Prediction: Mets win two of three.

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