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The Mets can gain some Wild Card ground in their first second-half series

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The Rockies have been stumbling since late June.

Chicago White Sox v Colorado Rockies Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Mets probably stand a better chance of winning the National League East than the Wild Card right now. Even though the team is 12 games back of Washington in the East and “only” 10.5 behind Colorado in the Wild Card standings, there are currently five teams between New York and the Rockies, and they’re all playing for just one spot. Still, it wouldn’t hurt the Mets if they took this series from Colorado to start the second half of the season.

On second though, it could hurt in the long run if a winning streak gives the front office a false sense of security and it ends up holding onto all the team’s veteran players, but that probably won’t happen. Let’s just hope for the best and root for the Mets to defeat a Rockies team that has played itself out of the NL West race over the past month. Since it hasn’t qualified for the postseason in eight years, Colorado is still a fun team for casual fans to root for, but the hype has cooled a little bit since it lost eight of nine games to end June.

A 4-5 start to July didn’t change the notion that Colorado is probably just a Wild Card contender and not a serious threat to take on the Dodgers at the top of the West. Nevertheless, the Rockies have a strong grip on the Wild Card and they should hold onto it if they avoid another lengthy skid.

The big difference-maker for Colorado in 2017 has been young starting pitching. In previous campaigns, the Rockies have struggled to find anyone who can give them quality innings both at Coors Field and on the road, but rookies like Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela are bucking the trend. When you consider that Jon Gray has recently returned from the disabled list and Tyler Chatwood continues to be a beast on the road, this squad appears to have the arms it needs to keep rolling down the stretch.

The bullpen has some soft spots in the middle, but Greg Holland has bounced back from injury to become one of the top closers in baseball again, while lefty Jake McGee could close for a lot of teams with his 44 strikeouts and nine walks in 36.2 innings. The relief pitching will only get stronger if Adam Ottavino can regain last year’s stellar form.

Of course, the main event for any Rockies team is the lineup, but this year’s version, hampered by a rib cage injury to exciting youngster David Dahl, is a little top heavy. Struggles by last year’s big contributors Carlos Gonzalez and Trevor Story — both have on-base percentages sitting around .300 with slugging percentages under .400 — mean that the bottom of the order isn’t producing as much as it should. The good news for Colorado is that leadoff man Charlie Blackmon and the surprising Mark Reynolds are in the midst of career-best campaigns while Nolan Arenado continues to dominate on both offense and defense.

The big lineup change we’re all waiting for the Mets to make might still be a few weeks away, as the front office appears to want Amed Rosario to stay at Triple-A through the trade deadline. Meanwhile, it would be nice if Terry Collins could find some room at the top of the order for both Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto. Both outfielders have had success in the leadoff spot this year, so it’s time to move Asdrubal Cabrera down in the lineup and let Granderson and Conforto hit back-to-back at the top.

Also, it’s nice that Rene Rivera isn’t killing the Mets on offense, but he has to take a back seat to Travis d’Arnaud in the second half in order to let the younger backstop establish himself. d’Arnaud has a wRC+ of just 88 this year, but his walk rate, strikeout rate, and isolated power tell the story of a guy who has the skills to be an above-average major league hitter at the catcher position.

The New York bullpen continues to be a mess, but at least the team is working to get some different guys like Erik Goeddel involved. Another potential Las Vegas promotion to look out for is Kevin McGowan, as he has 44 strikeouts, 17 walks, and a 4.01 ERA in 49.1 Pacific Coast League innings this year.

Probable pitchers

Friday, July 14: Jon Gray vs. Jacob deGrom, 7:10 p.m. on SNY

Gray: 24.0 IP, 24 K, 9 BB, 2 HR, 3.75 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 1.46 WHIP

Gray has only made two starts since April this season due to a broken foot, but those two starts have been pretty good with 15 strikeouts, two walks, and four earned runs allowed in 11.2 innings. The Oklahoma product proved last year that a young pitcher can last an entire year in Denver without melting down, and that makes him a very important part of Colorado’s future.

deGrom: 111.0 IP, 130 K, 38 BB, 18 HR, 3.97 FIP, 1.22 WHIP

After four superb starts in a row, the deGrom train came to a screeching halt in St. Louis on Friday due to four solo home runs hit by the opposition. The flip side is that deGrom put a zero in the walk column for the first time in 2017, and that allowed the Mets to stay in the game and eventually win. Perhaps soon New York’s ace will put his strange first half behind him and find a way to eliminate walks while also keeping the ball away from the sweet spot.

Saturday, July 15: Tyler Chatwood vs. Seth Lugo, 7:10 p.m. on PIX11

Chatwood: 106.0 IP, 87 K, 57 BB, 14 HR, 4.42 ERA, 4.89 FIP, 1.42 WHIP

Even though he gives up home runs at around the same rate as at Coors Field, Chatwood’s ERA is three runs better on the road this year. The biggest factor seems to be a lower walk rate outside of Denver. In every home start this year, Chatwood has walked at least three batters. He’s not a master of control on the road, either, but it’s not like the Mets can wait for him to give this game away.

Lugo: 33.1 IP, 23 K, 11 BB, 4 HR, 4.59 ERA, 4.41 FIP, 1.47 WHIP

It will be 10 days between starts for Lugo by the time he takes the mound on Saturday, although he did pitch in relief on Sunday in a 6-0 defeat. In that three-inning outing, Lugo allowed one run and looked a lot better than he did in his Independence Day start when he was roughed up in Washington for six runs in five frames. The Mets could have put Zack Wheeler in this spot, but instead the club will continue to conserve the Georgia native’s innings.

Sunday, July 16: Jeff Hoffman vs. Steven Matz, 1:10 p.m. on SNY

Hoffman: 56.1 IP, 50 K, 16 BB, 5 HR, 4.15 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 1.15 WHIP

Selected by Toronto with the ninth overall pick in the 2014 Draft, Hoffman has always been a starter with great stuff. However, that stuff didn’t begin to manifest itself in a high strikeout rate until last season at Triple-A Albuquerque. After a rough debut in 2016, Hoffman is starting to get swings and misses against major league hitters this season, but the biggest key to his success is that he’s only allowed one home run on the road so far.

Matz: 38.1 IP, 23 K, 10 BB, 7 HR, 3.05 ERA, 5.10 FIP, 1.12 WHIP

Not only did Matz’s low strikeout rate continue to be an issue during last Sunday’s start in St. Louis, but the lefty also gave up runs for the first time since June 22. The five runs he let up in four-and-one-third innings made for his worst outing of the campaign, and the performance makes one wonder if Matz’s two previous scoreless starts weren’t all smoke and mirrors. That high FIP number makes it seem like he’s hiding something, so Matz has to prove more than that he can just stay healthy in New York’s second half.

Prediction: Mets win two of three.

Poll

How will the Mets fare against the Rockies this weekend?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    Start the second half with a sweep!
    (27 votes)
  • 21%
    Win two of three.
    (19 votes)
  • 16%
    Win one of three.
    (15 votes)
  • 23%
    Let the trade rumors fly.
    (21 votes)
  • 8%
    Pizza!
    (8 votes)
90 votes total Vote Now