The Mets came out like gangbusters on Friday and Saturday night with back-to-back blowouts of Colorado. Unfortunately, the second-half surge only lasted so long and New York snapped back to reality on Sunday afternoon with a miserable 13-4 loss. Yes, it was nice to get a series victory, but we’ll say it again: Winning two out of three games isn’t good enough at this point. The deficit in both the National League East and Wild Card races is too large and the trade deadline is approaching too fast for any loss to be taken lightly.
Still, the Mets are now within 10 games of the Wild Card and have a chance to jump one of the teams in front of them this week as the Cardinals come to town for a four-game set. St. Louis took two of three from the Mets before the All-Star break but then dropped two of three to Pittsburgh on the other side. Mike Matheny’s club is only two games better than New York at 44-47, but it stands within a stone’s throw of the postseason thanks to the relative weakness of the NL Central. That leaves general manager John Mozeliak in a tough spot. Should he invest in the major league club and make a run at the division title or sell off some assets and get stronger for the future? Hopefully the Mets can help nudge him towards the latter option.
To do that, they’ll have to defeat a Cardinals team that has a healthier lineup than before. Dexter Fowler came back from a heel injury 10 days ago just in time to hit a home run against New York in the St. Louis series opener. Although he’s not getting on base quite as well as he did last year with the Cubs, Fowler is on pace to set a career high in home runs and is trusted with the third spot in Matheny’s batting order.
Second baseman Kolten Wong is another key player who is just coming back from injury. He missed a month with a triceps strain and made his July debut on Friday night in Pittsburgh. The Hawaii native has been bounced around between the majors and Triple-A during his Cardinals career, but he was playing some of the best baseball before getting hurt. He’s a very versatile player who specializes in contact hitting but also has enough pop and speed to be a threat no matter where he is on the field.
The Mets themselves should be strengthened by the return of Yoenis Cespedes, who looked like he might miss some time after planting his knee in the Citi Field turf on Saturday night. The Cuban outfielder is expected to start on Monday night, but it would be hard to blame Terry Collins for giving him a couple of days off with the way his three other regular outfielders have played this year.
In the bullpen, Hansel Robles is returning to the majors after posting a 5.79 ERA with Las Vegas. To be fair, he has held opponents scoreless over his last five outings, but his stats in 23.1 minor league innings are almost exactly the same as his stats from 21.2 major league innings earlier this year. It’s unclear if Robles has improved at all, but the Mets must feel he’s a better option than Chase Bradford, who is being sent back to Triple-A after allowing two runs in two frames on Sunday.
Monday, July 17: Adam Wainwright vs. Zack Wheeler, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Wainwright: 97.0 IP, 89 K, 33 BB, 10 HR, 5.20 ERA, 3.80 FIP, 1.49 WHIP
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Wainwright this season, but he brought back the good stuff against the Mets before the All-Star break. Not only did the veteran walk zero batters for just the second time all year, but he also struck out seven over six-and-two-thirds innings. Considering Wainwright’s career-high WHIP and .347 BABIP, the Mets should be able to barrel him up a little easier this time around.
Wheeler: 76.0 IP, 70 K, 32 BB, 12 HR, 4.86 ERA, 4.74 FIP, 1.51 WHIP
In his second start since coming off the disabled list, Wheeler allowed two runs in six innings at St. Louis with five strikeouts and one walk. That’s great sign since he was struggling mightily before going on the shelf with tendinitis. However, we might not see too much of the Georgia native going forward due to his recovery from Tommy John surgery as well as the Mets’ faint postseason hopes. If he continues to improve, though, his future will be as bright as ever in 2018.
Tuesday, July 18: Michael Wacha vs. Rafael Montero, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Wacha: 85.2 IP, 86 K, 31 BB, 8 HR, 4.10 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 1.42 WHIP
Wacha struggled in June with a 5.55 ERA for the month, but he bounced back nicely before the All-Star break with back-to-back nine-strikeout games to establish a season high. The Texas A&M product has lowered his ERA by a run compared to last year despite a rise from .334 to .347 in BABIP. One of the reasons for that is a return to striking out a batter per inning like he did during his rookie campaign of 2013. Between now and then, he’s struck out fewer than eight batters per nine in three straight seasons.
Montero: 39.0 IP, 43 K, 24 BB, 2 HR, 5.77 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 1.90 WHIP
The continued presence of Robert Gsellman on the disabled list means that Montero gets to strut his stuff at least one more time. During his last start on July 2 against Philadelphia, the 26-year-old allowed four runs in six-and-one-third innings, but overall he’s still trending upwards after a horrible start to 2017. Whatever bubble Montero is building up, however, is liable to burst if he ever starts giving up home runs.
Wednesday, July 19: Mike Leake vs. Jacob deGrom, 7:10 p.m. on SNY & ESPN
Leake: 114.2 IP, 77 K, 29 BB, 12 HR, 3.14 ERA, 4.00 FIP, 1.20 WHIP
Leake is etched in recent baseball history as a rare American player to make his major league debut before playing in the minors. Although he was drafted eighth overall in 2009, the Arizona State product has never been a high-ceiling guy, creating value by staying healthy and making opponents earn their way on base. With St. Louis the last two seasons, Leake has boosted his ground ball rate to become an even more valuable asset, but he uncharacteristically walked five batters in five innings during his last outing at Pittsburgh.
deGrom: 119.0 IP, 141 K, 39 BB, 18 HR, 3.48 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 1.18 WHIP
deGrom was rocked by St. Louis for four home runs 10 days ago in St. Louis, but he returned to dominant form as soon as the All-Star break ended with 11 strikeouts, one walk, and two runs allowed in eight frames against Colorado. Even in that poor St. Louis start, deGrom got through seven innings, as working deep into games and saving the bullpen has become his calling card.
Thursday, July 20: Lance Lynn vs. Seth Lugo, 12:10 p.m. on SNY & MLBN
Lynn: 108.2 IP, 96 K, 38 BB, 20 HR, 3.40 ERA, 5.01 FIP, 1.14 WHIP
Lynn pitched seven scoreless innings against the Mets back on July 9, and he followed that up with six-and-one-third scoreless in Pittsburgh on Saturday. However, the 30-year-old only struck out five batters between the two outings, so it’s not as though he was super dominant. Lynn’s ERA is down to 3.40 for 2017, but he’s also striking out fewer than eight batters per nine for the first time in his career without a significant decrease in walk rate. It looks like a lot of his success is due to a .230 BABIP, and that’s why his FIP is so different from his ERA.
Lugo: 40.0 IP, 28 K, 13 BB, 4 HR, 4.50 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 1.45 WHIP
With at least three runs allowed in each of his last five starts, Lugo’s value comes in his ability to induce weak contact and work deep into games. He needed just 97 pitches to pitch six-and-two-thirds innings on Saturday, so Lugo might be able to pitch into the seventh regularly if Terry Collins allows him to touch the century mark. Lugo even added some extra value over the weekend with his first career home run, and the Mets sold the silent treatment pretty darn well.
Prediction: Banana split.
How will the Mets fare this week against St. Louis?
This poll is closed
Sweep them like it’s 1986!
Win three of four.
Keith’s favorite: a banana split!
Win one of four.
At least the Cardinals still stink.