It’s a strange week for the Mets and their fans, as the team is playing just two games in four days between Monday and Thursday. It’s a scheduling quirk that should allow for some tired bullpen arms to rest up while fans are exposed to a team they probably don’t see very often in the Texas Rangers.
Texas has a lot in common with our hapless Mets. Both teams are coming off back-to-back postseason appearances but find themselves with enormous division deficits a third of the way through the season. A Wild Card berth is still within reach for both clubs, but the Rangers will have to play catch-up with some other American League hopefuls, while New York is just trying to put together a competent pitching staff.
There’s a lot of talk about how the National League is weak this year, but don’t let that make you optimistic that the Mets can easily compete for a postseason spot. The East and Central divisions might be lacking fearsome competitors, but the uprising of Colorado and Arizona in the West is enough to keep New York home in October if both 1990s expansion franchises keep up their winning ways. I mean, you can still be optimistic about the Mets — don’t let me stop you — but it shouldn’t be because of a lack of competition.
Optimism will be easier to come by once Yoenis Cespedes returns to the lineup. He was originally scheduled to be the designated hitter for these two games in Arlington, but like all plans made by the Mets, this one has gone awry. He should still be on your radar, but wait for him to made a rehab appearance in the minors before busting your yellow compression sleeve out of the closet. In the meantime, check out Lucas Duda! He hit two more home runs during the series opener against Pittsburgh to bring his season total to 10 in just 35 games played. With an isolated power of .328, he’s an at-bat you don’t want to miss this week.
While the Mets wait for Cespedes, the Rangers just got Adrian Beltre back last week after he spent the first two month of the campaign on the disabled list. Fortunately for Texas, the veteran slugger is showing no ill affects from his hamstring injury and is hitting .391/.444/.652 so far. His presence should bolster and offense that is 12th in the American League with a .721 team OPS.
Without Beltre, it was Elvis Andrus and Joey Gallo carrying the Texas lineup through April and May. Andrus has been known as a great fielder and baserunner for a while now, but this year he’s on pace four double-digit home runs for the first time in his career while maintaining a .350 on-base percentage thanks to his high contact rate and BABIP. Gallo, on the other hand, has never had an issues with putting the ball over the wall. He just has to keep mashing enough home runs (16 so far in 2017) and taking enough walks to make up for a 38-percent strikeout rate that’s not going down anytime soon.
Tuesday, June 6: Dillon Gee
Important stats (with Triple-A Round Rock): 51.0 IP, 43 K, 13 BB, 5 HR, 3.88 ERA, 4.10 FIP, 1.29 WHIP
Favorite pitches: two-seam fastball (90 mph), changeup (84 mph), four-seam fastball (90 mph), cutter (86 mph)
It’s Dillon Gee! After leaving the Mets following the 2015 season, this longtime rotation piece spent a season as Kansas City’s swingman before latching on with Texas and working as a full-time starter again at Triple-A. When the Rangers needed another arm because A.J. Griffin got hurt, Gee was the man they called upon, and after two decent bullpen outings, he’ll make his first major league start of the year against the Mets.
Mets starter, Jacob deGrom: Thanks to Michael Conforto being left off the All-Star ballot, deGrom is the Mets’ best chance at having a player appear in the Midsummer Classic. Unfortunately, his ERA no longer looks All-Star worthy since it ballooned to 3.97 after his brutal outing last Wednesday. The right-hander has hand plenty of rest since then, so hopefully he’ll get back to his dominant ways, even in an environment that’s tough to pitch in.
Wednesday, June 7: Yu Darvish
Important stats: 74.2 IP, 80 K, 31 BB, 10 HR, 3.13 ERA, 4.02 FIP, 1.19 WHIP
Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (94 mph), slider (83 mph), cutter (89 mph), two-seam fastball (94 mph)
Darvish’s ERA compares favorably to the one he put up in his half-season of 2016 when he was coming back from Tommy John surgery. However, the Japanese right-hander is not doing as well in the strikeout and walk categories. In 2013, 2014, and 2016, Darvish struck out more than 11 batters per nine innings, but this year that figure is just below 10. He’s also having a little trouble lately working deep into games, with two of his last three outings lasting just five innings.
Mets starter, Zack Wheeler: Wheeler’s consistency has been a pleasant surprise in his first campaign removed from Tommy John surgery. In fact, it’s been more than a month since he’s allowed more than three runs in a game. With 8.25 strikeouts per nine and 3.72 walks per nine this year to go with his 3.72 ERA and 3.97 FIP, there’s nothing spectacular about what Wheeler’s doing, but he is giving the Mets a chance to win every time he’s on the mound, and that should keep him in the rotation even when Steven Matz and Seth Lugo return.
Speaking of the Matz and Lugo returns, those two players could help out the bullpen indirectly just as much as they help the rotation. The bump road to Addison Reed might turn out to be a lot more pleasant with Robert Gsellman or Tyler Pill paving the way instead of Fernando Salas and way too much Jerry Blevins. Plus, we’ll get to see how Terry Collins deals with the new influx of arms, which should be as entertaining as anything.
Texas’s top two relievers coming into the season were Sam Dyson and Jeremy Jeffress, but both have been disasters. While Jeffress has a 1.95 WHIP in 22 innings this year, Dyson had a 10.80 ERA in his 16.2 innings before the Rangers designated him for assignment last week. The unexpected poor performances have forced some new players into big roles, and the new bullpen is working out so far with Matt Bush as the closer and Keone Kela setting up. 23-year-old Dominican Jose Leclerc has also been solid, although he’s been walking batters a little too much lately.
Prediction: Banana split
How will the Mets fare this week in Texas?
This poll is closed
Two Texas-sized wins!
Keith’s favorite: a banana split!
Only three months until football season.