Even though the Mets just got shut out by Miami and saw one of their starting pitchers suspended for breaking team rules all in the same day, they might not be the most snake-bitten team playing baseball at Citi Field this week. That’s because the Giants, despite their balanced roster and three championships this decade, are tied with Atlanta for fewest wins in the National League.
We’re learned never to count Bruce Bochy’s team out, but that might prove especially difficult in the coming weeks as Madison Bumgarner sits on the disabled list and recovers from an injury sustained while riding a dirt bike. The rest of the starting rotation hasn’t done enough to pick up the slack, and that’s one reason why San Francisco was outscored by Cincinnati 31-5 during a three-game sweep.
The Mets are also missing key players in Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes, but at least this team has had the wherewithal to stick around the .500 mark while waiting for reinforcements to slowly trickle off the DL. The Giants, on the other hand, are putting serious doubt in the minds of their fans with one uninspired performance after another.
It hasn’t just been the pitching staff letting San Francisco down. The lineup is responsible for a league-worst 3.28 runs per game thanks to just 19 home runs, which is eight fewer than any other team in the senior circuit. With solid role players like Denard Span and Brandon Crawford nursing injuries, Bochy has had to pencil in Gorkys Hernandez and just recently our old friend Justin Ruggiano into his starting nine, and the results haven’t been pretty.
Buster Posey and Brandon Belt are still guys that any manager would take in the middle of his lineup, but they’re not dominant enough power hitters to lift up a squad that isn’t producing elsewhere. It certainly doesn’t help that Hunter Pence is hitting just .254/.305/.339 while batting third night after night. Even Terry Collins showed enough flexibility to move Jose Reyes out of the leadoff spot.
One guy who might boost San Francisco’s offensive profile is Christian Arroyo, who was called up into an everyday role after injuries to Crawford and Aaron Hill left a spot open on the infield. The 21-year-old from Tampa was absolutely crushing the ball for Triple-A Sacramento earlier in the season, and he already has three home runs in 13 games for the big league club, but he’s never been much of a power hitter despite his first-round pedigree. Arroyo was able to reach the majors by making terrific contact relative to his age and league, so it will be interesting to see if this new power profile — he has a .196 isolated power but also a 25-percent strikeout rate in the majors so far — will stick around or if he’ll eventually turn into the contact guy that he grew up as.
With Asdrubal Cabrera heading to the disabled list with a mild thumb injury, it will be interesting to see how the Mets handle the left side of the infield. Reyes has stepped up his game lately, hitting for a 1.062 OPS over his last 11 games, so he’ll stick around at either shortstop or third base. Wilmer Flores is another healthy option, but he still doesn’t hit enough against right-handed pitching to make up for questionable defense at third base. The same goes for T.J. Rivera, although he’s been on a bit of a roll with the bat lately.
The job next to Reyes will probably not be handed to just one guy right away since none of the contenders have “dependable major league starter” on their resumes. Someone else who might throw his hat into the ring is Gavin Cecchini, who is reported to be on the shuttle to Queens as we speak. The former first-round draft pick is hitting just .254/.316/.369 at Las Vegas, albeit with solid walk and contact rates.
Monday, May 8: Matt Moore
Important stats: 33.1 IP, 28 K, 14 BB, 7 HR, 6.75 ERA, 5.44 FIP, 1.56 WHIP
Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (92 mph), cutter (90 mph), changeup (82 mph), knuckle curve (81 mph)
Once one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, injury and inconsistency have turned Moore into a middle-of-the-rotation lefty with upside. That upside has presented itself this year when Moore threw eight innings with one run allowed against Arizona and seven innings of one-run ball against the Dodgers. However, the 27-year-old’s other four starts have been pretty dreadful, resulting in that ugly stat line you see above. If Moore can ever become the master strikeout artists that he looked like as a youngster, it will be easier for managers to deal with his high walk rate.
Mets starter, Jacob deGrom: deGrom’s streak of double-digit strikeout games was put on hold last Wednesday when he punched out just five Atlanta batters in a pedestrian five-inning outing. The good news was that the Mets didn’t need their top starter to be heroic that night since the offense put 16 runs on the board. Depending on which version of Moore we get, New York may or may not need deGrom to return to dominance on Monday.
Tuesday, May 9: Jeff Samardzija
Important stats: 39.1 IP, 46 K, 10 BB, 6 HR, 5.03 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 1.14 WHIP
Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (94 mph), slider (88 mph), two-seam fastball (94 mph), splitter (86 mph)
The former Notre Dame football standout has outperformed his ERA this season thanks to a strikeout rate that’s well above anything he’s done since leaving the Cubs in 2014. Samardzija might just be the hidden ace this Giants team needs if his last start was any indication of what he’s capable of as a 32-year-old. In that game against the Dodgers, he struck out 11 batters with zero walks and one run allowed while throwing just 101 pitches in eight innings.
Mets starter, Zack Wheeler: Before last Thursday’s game in Atlanta was postponed due to rain, Wheeler appeared to be on his way to a win with one run allowed in three innings. Those frames might not count towards official 2017 statistics, but they probably will count with regard to Wheeler’s innings limit this year. Despite playing in his first big league action since his 2015 Tommy John surgery, Wheeler has been allowed to throw around 100 pitches in each of his last three full outings. Getting those pitch counts to translate into six and seven innings instead of four or five has been tricky, though.
Wednesday, May 10: Matt Cain
Important stats: 30.2 IP, 24 K, 15 BB, 3 HR, 4.70 ERA, 4.21 FIP, 1.57 WHIP
Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (89 mph), curveball (75 mph), two-seam fastball (89 mph), slider (83 mph)
From 2006 to 2012, Cain was one of the most consistently great pitchers in the game thanks to his ability to generate fly balls without giving up many home runs. Injuries and increased home run rates have limited Cain’s effectiveness since the glory days, but he was able to relive them during his last four starts this April, when the veteran allowed just three runs total. Unfortunately, that charade came crashing down during Cain’s latest outing, when he was punished by Cincinnati with nine runs in fewer than four innings. Overall, Cain has shown this season that he can still be a good pitcher when he keeps his walks down, but he’s now above four allowed per nine innings thanks to the six he gave up to the Reds.
Mets starter, Rafael Montero: Montero is still tabbed as the probable starter even though the Mets just picked up Tommy Milone with the perceived intention of moving him into the fifth-starter role. However, it’s not as though Milone has been that much better than Montero lately. That’s why he was designated for assignment by the Brewers. With Montero having done everything we were afraid of him doing during his first start of the season last Friday, this could be his last chance to prove that he has what it takes to be a desperation starting pitcher.
San Francisco’s bullpen came into the season with a reputation for blowing leads, but the revamped unit has been pretty good so far. New closer Mark Melancon blew a save on Opening Day in Phoenix, but he’s been dominant overall with 10 strikeouts and one walk in 10.2 innings. Meanwhile, Hunter Strickland continues to be among the best setup men in baseball with a 0.82 ERA in 11 frames. The good news for the Mets is that the Giants don’t have a dominant left-handed reliever right now with Will Smith on the shelf due to Tommy John surgery. Steven Okert is struggling with six runs allowed in nine-and-one-third innings, and the pen’s other southpaw Josh Osich was just called up this month after a rough April in the Pacific Coast League.
Sunday could have been a disaster for New York’s bullpen with Adam Wilk failing to get out of the fourth inning. Fortunately, Paul Sewald came in to save the day with a solid three-and-one-third innings in which he only gave up one run while striking out six and walking none. Combined with the two perfect frames he threw while mopping up Saturday night’s blowout, Sewald may have just made a case for a larger role in the big leagues... if he doesn’t get sent down to make room for Milone.
How will the Mets fare this week against the Giants?
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