That Subway Series certainly could have gone better, but here’s some good news: The Mets are only five games behind Miami and can get back in the hunt for second place in the National League East with a sweep this weekend! Hey, some fans take this time of year to over-analyze the team’s young players, but for me, August is still about putting up those sweet, sweet Ws. And those Ws are all the more sweeter when your team plays its catcher at third base with a rotation full of scrubs taking the mound for 80 percent of the games.
We may not have to watch Travis d’Arnaud play the hot corner again thanks to the promotions of Gavin Cecchini and Matt Reynolds, but this team will continue to be a tough watch. Fortunately, the Marlins have a similarly sad rotation (only without an ace like New York has), but they’ve won five of their last six games thanks to the brilliance of Giancarlo Stanton. The slugger’s six-game home run streak was snapped during Wednesday’s victory over San Francisco, and that marked just the fifth time this month that he’s failed to go deep in a game. With a 1.018 slugging percentage and 11 home runs in August, Stanton is playing like he’s from another planet right now, and now there’s talk that he can challenge the “real” home run record of 61 in a season set by Roger Maris in 1961.
Let’s forget for a second that the ball is jumping out of ballparks at a suspiciously high rate over the past two seasons. 61 home runs would still be something to cheer about just because it’s been a while since someone hit that many. When you combine a fun home run chase with an exciting new ownership group in Miami, it seems like it’s a great time to be a Marlins fan for the first time in a while.
When the franchise was run by Jeffrey Loria, many pundits figured that Stanton would not ride out the length of his mega deal as a member of the Marlins, but with the team changing hands, there’s hope that the destroyer of baseball can blossom into the superstar that he has always seemed destined to become.
Like Miami, the Mets aren’t a great team right now, but their outfielders sure can hit the ball and one of them is playing like a franchise cornerstone. For New York, that guy is Michael Conforto, and he’s done a great job bouncing back from a second straight June slump to resume his mashing in July and August. That’s a big difference from last year, when the Oregon State product failed to adjust to opposing pitching and was forced to take a sabbatical in Las Vegas.
Terry Collins prefers Conforto to bat in the middle of the order, and that has meant more leadoff at-bats for Curtis Granderson. The veteran outfielder hasn’t used his spot in the lineup as an excuse to stop driving in runs, as he notched three RBI on Sunday against the Phillies in a three-hit game before crushing a grand slam against the Yankees on Thursday night. Retirement rumors are swirling around Granderson, and his contract with New York is up at the end of the year, so there’s still a decent chance that he gets moved before September 1.
The solid play and left-handedness of Conforto and Granderson will mean tough work for a Miami bullpen that is entirely right-handed. However, rookie standout Drew Steckenrider is making outs against almost everyone he faces these days. The University of Tennessee product has 24 strikeouts, six walks, and a 2.00 ERA in 18 innings this year with zero runs allowed in seven appearances this month.
The Mets will counter with their own enticing newcomer in Chasen Bradford. The 28-year-old out of Central Florida is coming off of two-and-two-thirds scoreless innings on Thursday night, and he’s allowed just one run in eight August appearances. With Paul Sewald, Erik Goeddel, and Hansel Robles all having a rough time against the Yankees, Bradford is becoming a name to watch when it comes to future set-up opportunities.
Friday, August 18: Justin Nicolino vs. Chris Flexen, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Nicolino: 25.2 IP, 16 K, 12 BB, 5 HR, 4.56 ERA, 5.94 FIP, 1.83 WHIP
Even though the Marlins have had plenty of problems in the starting pitching area this year, there haven’t been enough to give Nicolino an extended look as a big league starter. That’s probably because he wasn’t a great starter for Miami in 2015 or 2016. The lefty’s strikeout rate has never been acceptable, and he doesn’t get a ton of ground balls, either. In his one start since being called up on August 11, Nicolino allowed two runs in five-and-one-third innings against Colorado, but he also walked four batters with just two strikeouts.
Flexen: 16.2 IP, 13 K, 12 BB, 4 HR, 7.02 ERA, 7.22 FIP, 2.10 WHIP
It’s tough to come out on the short end of a pitching matchup against Nicolino, but the Mets seem to have done just that with Flexen heading to the hill. The good news is that he was okay in his last start at Philadelphia with a season-low two runs allowed in five innings. However, the youngster continued to struggle with his control and ended up with his second four-walk game in four career outings.
Saturday, August 19: Vance Worley vs. Rafael Montero, 7:10 p.m. on PIX11
Worley: 50.2 IP, 35 K, 16 BB, 3 HR, 4.97 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 1.50 WHIP
Out of all the mediocre journeyman pitchers that bounce around the majors, Worley is one of the most mediocre. He’s got a solid FIP this year, but it’s mostly due to some decent home run luck and a ground ball rate that’s a little about his career average. Still, Worley has been quite good recently in two games against Washington to start this month. On August 2, he held the Nationals scoreless for seven innings, and he followed that up with six innings of one-run ball on August 8.
Montero: 71.1 IP, 74 K, 37 BB, 10 HR, 5.80 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 1.75 WHIP
Mets fans would love if more of their pitchers could grind out solid outings like Worley. Montero played the role well on Monday, nearly leading New York to a series-opening victory over the Yankees. The Mets might have crumbled down the stretch in that one, but it was hard not to be impressed with Montero, who allowed two runs in six innings with six strikeouts and two walks. After another Steven Matz debacle later in the week, we can’t call Montero New York’s worst starting pitcher.
Sunday, August 20: Adam Conley vs. Jacob deGrom, 1:10 p.m. on SNY
Conley: 66.0 IP, 44 K, 27 BB, 8 HR, 5.32 ERA, 4.83 FIP, 1.48 WHIP
Like Nicolino, Conley is a lefty with a lousy strikeout-to-walk ratio who has spent some time at Triple-A New Orleans this year. Unlike Nicolino, Conley has a three-start stretch in July that he pitched very well in. He’s cooled off since then with 12 runs allowed in 16.2 August innings, so hopefully the Mets can make some hay against the Washington State product.
deGrom: 158.2 IP, 183 K, 48 BB, 23 HR, 3.35 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 1.16 WHIP
One of the most impressive aspects about deGrom’s 2017 campaign is the way he’s able to eat up innings, even when he’s not pitching that well. He did it again in the Bronx on Tuesday, pitching into the eighth inning despite giving up four runs and only striking out four batters in the first seven frames. Miami’s lineup might not be as deep as the Yankees’ is, but there’s still plenty of meat in the middle of the order for deGrom to worry about.
Prediction: Mets win two of three.
How will the Mets fare this weekend against the Marlins?
This poll is closed
Shut down Stanton with a sweep!
Win two of three.
Win one of three.
Come away smelling fishy.