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Marlins vs. Mets: Amazins return home looking to build momentum

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Can one of these teams emerge as a National League East contender?

MLB: Miami Marlins at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets appeared to be well on their way to another victory in Atlanta on Thursday night. Jay Bruce crushed a two-run home run to right field to give New York a 3-1 lead, but then the rain came and washed away any record of the game.

So now the team returns home after winning two straight series on the road. The opponent will be another familiar one, and these Marlins have previously won two of three games at Citi Field and three of four when the rivalry shifted to Miami. Life without the Mets has been tougher for the Fish, though. In their last nine games, they’ve lost two straight to Philadelphia, two out of three to Pittsburgh, and three out of four against Tampa Bay.

While the Mets are trying to keep their small amount of momentum alive, Miami is looking to regain footing in a division that feels like it’s up for grabs... well, second place is up for grabs. Washington is running away from everyone in first place with a six-and-a-half game lead.

Marlins offense

As you’d expect from a team that has hit the skids, most of Miami’s regulars are not hitting well. The team has hit just three home runs in the past week, with none coming from star hitters Christian Yelich or Giancarlo Stanton. The two guys who have been solid lately are first baseman Justin Bour and left fielder Marcell Ozuna. While Bour has an OPS of just .685 this year, he’s picked it up recently with hits in five of his last six games. That includes a 4-for-5 performance against Pittsburgh that featured a home run, a double, and six RBI. Ozuna is riding a six-game hitting streak himself, but if his 27-percent strikeout rate keeps up, it’s going to be tough to sustain his .365 on-base percentage. Still, the 26-year-old is rocking a .262 isolated power, so he’ll continue to provide value even if he’s not quite this good.

Mets offense

Speaking of guys not being this good, is Jay Bruce for real? We know he can hit for power, but after posting strikeout rates well north of 20 percent for every full season in his career, Bruce is only striking out in 16 percent of his plate appearances this season. As a result of chasing fewer pitches out of the strike zone, the former Cincinnati outfielder is walking more often as well. If he can keep his walk and strikeout numbers where they are, the Mets will have to seriously consider re-signing him after the 2017 campaign. How crazy is that?

One thing that’s not so magical about Bruce’s 2017 is his outfield defense, but there could be some more first base in his future if Lucas Duda can’t stay healthy. The elbow injury he suffered in April was only supposed to hold him out 10 days, but he hit a speed bump and his disabled list stint will continue with rehab games next week. The good news is that another Mets first baseman, Wilmer Flores, is back in the lineup. He hit a double that did not count off of Jaime Garcia on Thursday and should give the offense a kick in the butt against lefties.

Probable pitchers

Friday, May 5: Tom Koehler

Important stats: 25.0 IP, 20 K, 11 BB, 7 HR, 5.40 ERA, 6.37 FIP, 1.56 WHIP

Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (92 mph), slider (86 mph), knuckle curve (79 mph), two-seam fastball (93 mph)

Four the past four years, Koehler has been a durable if not particularly effective member of Miami’s rotation. He’s not quite good enough to strike fear into the hearts of opposing batters, and he’s not quite bad enough to boot from the rotation entirely. He’s just an affordable innings-eater who doesn’t strike out enough batters to make up for his unsightly walk rates. This season, he’s off to a very poor start with four walks per nine innings and at least one home run surrendered in every game. Koehler also has a 5.58 career ERA at Citi Field, so the Mets are used to feasting on him.

Mets starter, Rafael Montero: It’s a good thing that the Mets can expect to score a bunch of runs in this game, because there’s a good chance that they’ll need every one they can get. Montero has been far from acceptable in his relief pitching performance this year, and now he could be in the rotation for more than one turn. Back when he was an intriguing prospect, Montero was known for his control, but nowadays he walks everyone and drives Mets fans crazy. However, in two April starts at Triple-A Las Vegas, the 26-year-old was solid with 16 strikeouts and three walks in 10.1 innings, so maybe there is a sliver of hope for him in this outing.

Saturday, May 6: Wei-Yin Chen

Important stats: 27.0 IP, 20 K, 9 BB, 3 HR, 4.33 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 1.19 WHIP

Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (91 mph), changeup (82 mph), curveball (74 mph), two-seam fastball (90 mph)

The Mets struggled against Chen on April 7 and then mashed him on April 13, so it will be interesting to see how the third matchup goes. Since pitching against New York in his first two starts of the campaign, the Taiwanese southpaw has been pretty good, throwing seven no-hit innings in Seattle before struggling in Philadelphia and throwing a quality start against Tampa Bay despite an uncharacteristic four walks. Unlike Koehler, Chen is not going to gives the Mets many free passes, so they should look to hammer some strikes like they did the last time they faced him.

Mets starter, Robert Gsellman: Part of the reason why Gsellman is having trouble recreating his success from last year is the .352 BABIP against him and a 51-percent strand rate. However, he’s also not helping his cause with a strikeout-to-walk ratio that’s barely above 2:1. In his last two starts — both against Atlanta — Gsellman allowed a total of 11 runs in nine innings with four walks and two strikeouts. Those figures are not going to cut it for the right-hander even if his BABIP and strand rate start to help him out a little more.

Sunday, May 7: mystery starter

Edinson Volquez has his status up in the air for Sunday due to a blister that he suffered in his last outing against Tampa Bay. If the Marlins decide to give him a rest, we could see Justin Nicolino promoted from Triple-A for a spot start or Jose Urena temporarily shifted from the bullpen. As a starter against the Mets last year, Nicolino allowed six runs in just over nine innings, while Urena let up just two runs in two starts before the Mets lit him up for five runs in five frames in late September.

Mets starter, Matt Harvey: Like Gsellman, Harvey has been bludgeoned by Atlanta during his last two outings. The first time around, we gave him a pass because he was taking the ball unexpectedly the day after a hard workout. There was no such excuse for the big right-hander giving up six runs in five-and-one-third innings on Tuesday, and fans should be concerned with Harvey striking out just over five batters per nine in 2017.

Bullpens

Of the five appearances that Nick Wittgren has made in the majors this year, the only one that he didn’t give up a run in was on April 13. In that game, he pitched three perfect frames to extend the 16-inning marathon that the Mets eventually won on a Travis d’Arnaud home run. In his four other outings in 2017, the Purdue product has four runs allowed in five-and-two-thirds innings. He might not show up on the mound this weekend, but it’s kind of funny that his only successful appearance of the season is also his longest.

Mets relievers sure do love walking batters these days. Even the successful ones have way too many walks to not make fans nervous. Fernando Salas has seven walks in 13 innings and Josh Smoker has seven in 14.2 frames. Even Hansel Robles and his 1.11 WHIP have nine walks in 15.1 innings. And we’ve already been over what Jeurys Familia is doing. The only Mets pitchers without a walk on the season are Kevin Plawecki and Addison Reed. One of those guys is a catcher and the other has already given up four home runs. Familia is still the closer after posting saves in his last two appearances, but I’d personally rather have a guy in that position who is going to make it tougher for opponents to reach base.

Poll

How will the Mets fare against the Marlins this weekend?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    First home sweep of the season!
    (31 votes)
  • 32%
    Win two of three.
    (37 votes)
  • 18%
    Win one of three.
    (21 votes)
  • 11%
    We can’t say "it’s only April" anymore.
    (13 votes)
  • 11%
    Pizza!
    (13 votes)
115 votes total Vote Now