The Mets looked to be building some momentum after their series win in Pittsburgh last weekend. Terry Collins’s team won handily on Sunday night and parlayed that into victories in the first two games of the series against Milwaukee. However, that momentum came to a screeching halt on Wednesday night when New York was crushed 7-1 despite having its best pitcher on the mound. To add insult to injury, the club’s beloved mascot, Mr. Met, exploded the tabloids when he was caught on camera making an obscene gesture.
It was just another headline in a long list of stories that it seems can only happen to the Mets. The sad weirdness only continued on Thursday afternoon when Wilmer Flores ran into a bat boy while trying to catch a pop-up and Collins was ejected while arguing for an out on interference. Shockingly, the manager’s plea did not inspire his team to score enough runs to secure a win.
In a nutshell, the Mets appear to be reeling again with eight-and-a-half games between them and a Wild Card berth. There’s still 110 games to play, though, and this weekend’s opponent isn’t in great shape, either. The Pirates, who the Mets were an inning away from sweeping last week, just lost two out of three games to Arizona and have struggled all year due to a lineup that hasn’t played up to expectations.
Pittsburgh would be in better shape if Gregory Polanco was on the field more often. After going on the 10-day disabled list for a hamstring injury in mid-May, he returned against the Mets and looked fantastic with five hits and two home runs during the three-game set. However, he hurt his ankle in the outfield on Memorial Day and is now sidelined once again. The Dominican outfielder isn’t supposed to head back to the DL, but Mets fans know all too well how that story turns out.
Another slugger who appeared to be heating up against New York was Andrew McCutchen, the franchise player who has seen his slugging percentage drop steadily over the past three years. Now hitting .223/.301/.404, McCutchen has got to step up his game if he’s going to help Pittsburgh compete for the postseason or even just become a decent trade chip. He may have started that path against the Mets with a two-run, game-tying home run on Saturday night, and he followed that up with a walk-off solo shot on Memorial Day.
New York’s offense wilted over the last two days with just one run scored in each game, and the pitching staff wasn’t good enough to make up the difference. One guy in the lineup who at least stayed warm was Curtis Granderson, who had two hits each on Tuesday and Wednesday to momentarily raise his batting average above the Mendoza Line. If you focus too much on that average, though, you might miss that Granderson has been productive in May and only will continue to see his bat heat up if his month-to-month career statistics hold true. We know that Collins can struggle with tactical decisions, so it will be interesting to see how he juggles the four-man outfield when Yoenis Cespedes finally returns.
Another move Collins might think about is permanently replacing Jose Reyes with Flores. Reyes saw his on-base percentage drop to .266 this week after going 0-for-13 in his last three games, while Flores registered three hits on Monday as well as a solo home run on Thursday to move his OPS to .804 overall. He’s still only hitting .275/.301/.400 against right-handed pitching, but that’s better than Reyes’s situation.
Friday, June 2: Gerrit Cole
Important stats: 66.2 IP, 55 K, 14 BB, 12 HR, 3.65 ERA, 4.40 FIP, 1.20 WHIP
Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (96 mph), slider (88 mph), changeup (89 mph), knuckle curve (81 mph), two-seam fastball (96 mph)
The Mets smashed three home runs against Cole last Saturday night in a 5-4 defeat that they eventually snatched from the jaws of victory. The UCLA product now has 12 home runs allowed for the season and five in his last two games. Cole is allowing more fly balls than he usually does, but the real problem is that his home run per fly ball ratio is nearly double his career average. It also doesn’t help that with eight strikeouts in his last three outings, he’s not missing bats the way he used to, either.
Mets starter, Matt Harvey: Harvey had a very encouraging start his last time out. He completed six innings for the first time since April, got big outs when he needed them, and only allowed one run. Fans are eager to say that the 28-year-old right-hander is “back” every time he does something good, but one good game does not make an ace. The next step is for Harvey to prove he can consistently shut down the opposition.
Saturday, June 3: Tyler Glasnow
Important stats: 45.1 IP, 44 K, 26 BB, 7 HR, 6.95 ERA, 4.96 FIP, 1.90 WHIP
Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (94 mph), curveball (80 mph), changeup (88 mph), two-seam fastball (94 mph)
The silver lining for Glasnow during the beatdown the Mets handed him last Sunday night was that he didn’t walk anyone in five innings. His previous low for walks in a game this season had been two, so that probably felt good. Other than that, the Mets did what they were supposed to do against the struggling youngster and scored five runs en route to a 7-2 victory. With the New York bats recently hitting a cold snap, a repeat performance would be nice.
Mets starter, Robert Gsellman: With Steven Matz and Seth Lugo getting closer and closer to the major league rotation, this could be Gsellman’s last turn as a starter for a while. Maybe not, though. The 23-year-old is coming off his finest performance of the season with one run allowed in seven innings against Milwaukee, and he could make a case to stay with another elongated outing. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that Gsellman’s future as a big league starting pitcher hinges on this game, so hopefully he’s ready for it.
Sunday, June 4: Trevor Williams
Important stats: 36.1 IP, 25 K, 11 BB, 5 HR, 5.20 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 1.32 WHIP
Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (93 mph), slider (84 mph), sinker (92 mph)
Originally selected by Miami in the second round of the 2015 Draft, this rookie out of Arizona State isn’t the most exciting pitcher you’ll ever see, but he’s done decent work for Pittsburgh since transitioning out of the bullpen in early May. With nine strikeouts and zero walks in his last two starts, Williams is discovering the type of control he needs to succeed in the majors as a hurler with pretty pedestrian stuff.
Mets starter, Tyler Pill: Pill is in the same boat as Gsellman. Both guys could be on the outs if they don’t perform well against Pittsburgh with reinforcements coming to the rotation. However, like Gsellman, Pill is coming off an impressive start and has another chance to prove himself this weekend. No matter who ends up sticking in the forever-shifting rotation, it’s good news for the Mets that they’ll soon have a higher collection of quality arms at their disposal.
Pittsburgh has a solid bullpen thanks to the terrific setup work by Juan Nicasio and Felipe Rivero, but the closer role has been lacking with Tony Watson pitching the ninth. Although you can’t deny that the southpaw earned his promotion by being a great eighth-inning guy in the past, this year he’s been more susceptible to walks and the long ball. Plus, Watson has now blown saves in two of his last four appearances after he gave up a two-run home run to Chris Iannetta on Memorial Day. It might be time for manager Clint Hurdle to examine other options.
Can we start to count on Fernando Salas again? He’s been pretty dreadful overall this season, but on Thursday afternoon he saved the Mets from a dire situation. With two runners on and nobody out in the eighth inning, the Mexican right-hander entered the game and struck out three Milwaukee batters in a row (not counting an intentional walk) to keep New York’s deficit at two runs. Salas even followed that up with a perfect ninth to show that the previous inning wasn’t a total fluke. With Hansel Robles trying to work out his issues in Triple-A, there are few reliable right-handers for Terry Collins to hand the ball to, so if Salas can get his act together, it would make a big difference for the struggling bullpen.
Prediction: Mets win two of three.
How will the Mets fare against Pittsburgh this weekend?
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Put Mr. Met in a good mood with a sweep!
Win two of three.
Win one of three.
At least it’s National Doughnut Day.