This series for the Mets was always going to be a tough one. As the battle with the Phillies over the weekend proved, there are no easy games in a Wild Card race, and the Marlins have historically been a road block for the Mets when it comes to the team trying to reach the postseason during the final week of September.
The recent loss of Jose Fernandez to a boating accident puts the upcoming three games in a whole new perspective. After watching the raw and emotional reaction by Miami’s players, coaches, and executives to the star pitcher’s death, one has to wonder how many of them will be in the mood to play ball on Monday night.
All of baseball could probably use a week off to collect its thoughts and mourn the departed superstar, but the show must go on, and that means that there’s three more must-win games on tap for the Mets in Miami this week. Thanks to losses by San Francisco and St. Louis on Sunday, as well as New York’s own crushing victory over Philadelphia, the Mets are one game ahead of both the Giants and Cardinals in the loss column. With San Francisco hosting Colorado from Tuesday to Thursday and St. Louis set to begin a four-game series with Cincinnati, there’s not likely to be much room for error when it comes to maintaining the slim margin.
That’s why it’s so great that New York’s bats have come to life over the weekend, scoring at least eight runs in all four games against the Phillies. The epic comeback attempt from Saturday night may have fallen a little short, but the Mets’ offense feels as dangerous as ever after Sunday’s 17-0 romp. Asdrubal Cabrera is leading the way with the highest OPS of his career following his heroic three-run home run on Thursday night and a grand slam that served as the cherry on top of the series finale.
Even Jay Bruce got involved with a home run and a double over the last two games, only one of which he started. If he can somehow return to the form that made him such a dangerous slugger in the first half, and Lucas Duda proves healthy enough to return to the every-day lineup, the Mets could boast one of the most dangerous offenses against right-handed pitching in the majors.
Miami, of course, has plenty of weapons of its own. While the Mets have been able to mostly contain Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon this season, Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton have been even bigger threats against New York than other opponents. Yelich is hitting .410/.478/.656 in 16 games against Mets pitching this year with four home runs and three stole bases, while Stanton has a .732 slugging percentage and six home runs in just 11 games.
Stanton’s stats are particularly jarring because of how he has struggled against other teams this season. He missed most of August with a groin injury and is hitting just .241/.328/.495 overall with 27 home runs. You can tell we think highly of Stanton when numbers like those seem low, but this is a guy with the talent to hit at least 30 home run every year, if only he can stay healthy. Against the Mets, though, Stanton is the MVP he was born to become.
|Date||Time||Television||Mets Probable Starter||Marlins Probable Starter|
|September 26, 2016||7:10 PM||SNY||Bartolo Colon||Adam Conley|
|September 27, 2016||7:10 PM||SNY||Noah Syndergaard||Tom Koehler|
|September 28, 2016||7:10 PM||SNY||Seth Lugo||Jose Urena|
Important stats: 130.1 IP, 122 K, 61 BB, 13 HR, 3.94 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 1.41 WHIP
Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (91 mph), changeup (83 mph), slider (85 mph)
Conley was supposed to get the nod on Sunday after spending over a month on the disabled list with finger tendinitis. Since that game was tragically cancelled, it will likely be Conley taking the ball in Monday’s emotional series opener. Although he struggled mightily in his last three starts before hitting the DL, the 26-year-old southpaw has had success against the Mets this year with just two runs allowed in 12 innings spread over two starts.
Mets opponent: Bartolo Colon is the rock of New York’s rotation, and it’s amazing how far he’s come since signing with the team back in 2014. Starting out as a back-of-the-rotation insurance policy, the 43-year-old Dominican has got from funny sideshow to cult hero to one of the most valuable players on the team. With two more Colon starts left before the end of the regular season, Terry Collins will turn to him once more to save the day.
Important stats: 170.0 IP, 141 K, 74 BB, 4.02 ERA, 4.39 FIP, 1.42 WHIP
Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (92 mph), slider (85 mph), knuckle curve (79 mph)
Koehler might be the Colon of Miami’s staff, if only he could keep his walks down and work deeper into games. Still, there’s something to be said for any pitcher who makes more than 30 starts in three straight years the way the Stony Brook alumnus has. If T.J. Rivera starts against Koehler, Mets fans can look forward to a Bronx vs. Bronx matchup, but mostly they’ll just be excited about the possibility of putting up another win like New York has all three times it has faced the right-hander this season.
Mets opponent: Noah Syndergaard had to have his latest start pushed back due to strep throat. That led to Sean Gilmartin and Rafael Montero digging a deep hole for the Mets that eventually led to a loss on Saturday night. The man known as Thor is now set to start on Tuesday as well as in the final game of the regular season on Sunday. If New York doesn’t need him then, he’ll be free to start the Wild Card game on October 5. No matter what happens, a strong start against Miami will do a lot to inspire confidence among Mets fans, especially since Syndergaard most recent outing ended in a loss to Atlanta.
Important stats: 78.2 IP, 56 K, 27 BB, 9 HR, 5.95 ERA, 4.46 FIP, 1.40 WHIP
Favorite pitches: two-seam fastball (94 mph), four-seam fastball (95 mph), changeup (89 mph), slider (86 mph)
It might be Urena on the hill for the series finale, but that’s pending because of how badly he got lit up during his last two starts. In Philadelphia on September 17 he allowed seven runs in just two innings, and he followed that up with a five-run, three-inning dud last Thursday against Atlanta. The 25-year-old showed some promise earlier in the month when he fell one out short of a complete game shutout against the Dodgers, so Don Mattingly may want to get Urena back in the saddle before the season ends. If that does happen, we’ll hope the Mets can score more than one run off of him. Back on September 1, Urena held New York to one run in six innings.
Mets opponent: For the first time since his first career start, Seth Lugo allowed more than two runs in a game on Thursday night. He’s going to have to do a little better than that this week if he hopes to fight off Robert Gsellman and earn that third spot in the potential postseason rotation. With Lugo and Gsellman both pitching in important games down the stretch, Collins and Mets fans will be watching closely to decide which one they trust more in a big spot.
Fernando Salas was in a bit of a slump for the Mets, allowing one run in three out of four outings between September 14 and September 20. However, on Sunday he came in and struck out the side in a very low-pressure inning against Philadelphia. The Mexican right-hander has a 2.03 ERA and 0.68 WHIP in his short tenure with New York, so he’s another guy for fans to watch, as his postseason role could depend on how he performs down the stretch.
One of the more underappreciated Miami players is Kyle Barraclough, the 26-year-old right-hander who is striking out nearly 14 batters per nine innings this year. That’s hard to do even if you’re not tied for fifth in the majors with 74 appearances in 2016. If he can just cut down on his walks (44 of them in 71.2 innings), Barraclough has the swing-and-miss ability to become a dominant closer in the future.
Prediction: Mets win two of three.