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Mets visit Cincinnati for a battle of the rebuilds

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Jacob deGrom gives the Mets an edge in the rotation, but the Reds have way more healthy bats.

Cincinnati Reds v Cleveland Indians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Most fans have already accepted that the Mets are done competing for the 2017 World Series title, but even for those who have embraced the rebuilding, the recent news about Yoenis Cespedes and David Wright had to sting. Now that Cespedes is out for the rest of the year, we’ll have to wait until next spring to watch him launch another majestic home run. Likewise, even the faint hope of seeing Wright take the field this September seems to have faded away with his rehab assignment shutting down.

The silver lining is that we’ll get to see more young players down the stretch than we thought. Your starting Mets outfield is now Brandon Nimmo, Juan Lagares, and Travis Taijeron, three players who would be buried on the depth chart if New York had been more competitive for the past five months. It’s not a great combination for winning games, but the Mets do get to see as much of Nimmo and Lagares as they want before making a decision on the third starting outfielder for 2018.

Thanks to the recent performance of the pair, I’m starting to believe in them a little bit. Nimmo still strikes out too much for a player with so little power, but the Mets might have something with him if he continues to get on base. Plus, the laser-beam home run he hit on Sunday night made it seem like we could see more power in the future. Lagares’s issues are different since he puts enough balls into play but doesn’t walk enough. However, with multiple hits in three of his last four games, we’re starting to see the line-drive stroke that made him an offensive threat back in 2014.

Even with Nimmo and Lagares not embarrassing themselves, the Mets will go into Cincinnati having to win with pitching and defense. That’s because the Reds have more weapons in their lineup than the injured Mets can match up with. Joey Votto is walking way more than he’s striking out and has hit 30 home runs for the just the second time in his career. He’s simply the best hitter in the world and perhaps the least hyped of all the senior circuit’s MVP candidates.

Votto isn’t alone in the Cincinnati batting order, though. Adam Duvall has shown that last year’s 30 home runs were not a fluke, and while the four-home-run game by Scooter Gennett might have been just that, he’s still having a career year with 22 long balls and a .244 isolated power. The biggest development for the Reds, though, might be Eugenio Suarez. The 26-year-old was never supposed to be a cornerstone of the franchise’s future, but he also wasn’t supposed to boost his walk rate six percent over last year while hitting for a 129 wRC+ and playing solid defense at third base.

By hitting .329/.476/.709 this month, Suarez is putting increasing pressure on the Reds to do something with him this winter, whether that be an extension or a trade. After all, the future Cincinnati’s infield is getting crowded with hot prospect Nick Senzel tearing up Double-A.

The future of the bullpen is also developing positively, as Raisel Iglesias has become — again, quietly, because nothing in Cincinnati happens loudly — one of the top closers in baseball. The Cuban right-hander has 81 strikeouts in 65.1 innings with a 2.07 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. Meanwhile, Mets fans will look to see if the formerly dominant Jeurys Familia can regain at least some of his old form. In his return from the disabled list on Saturday, he was lit up by Washington for three runs in one inning. For now, AJ Ramos is the favorite for Mets closer in 2018.

Probable pitchers

Tuesday, August 29: Chris Flexen vs. Sal Romano, 7:10 p.m. on SNY

Flexen: 28.0 IP, 19 K, 20 BB, 6 HR, 5.79 ERA, 6.91 FIP, 1.93 WHIP

Flexen hasn’t been a complete disaster lately, as he’s now gone four straight starts with either two or three runs allowed. He’d be a more intriguing pitcher if not for his horrendous walk rate, but it’s encouraging that the 23-year-old is coming off of his best ever major league start against a solid Arizona lineup. In that game, Flexen set career highs with six innings and 104 pitches while allowing only two runs.

Romano: 52.2 IP, 44 K, 25 BB, 7 HR, 4.96 ERA, 4.78 FIP, 1.54 WHIP

This Long Island native is coming in hot with back-to-back seven-inning quality starts against Atlanta and the Cubs. However, as you can tell by his ERA and WHIP, not all of Romano’s outings this year have gone as smoothly. Like Flexen, the Reds rookie found success in the minor leagues by throwing lots of strikes, but both youngsters have had a tougher time avoiding walks in the big leagues. In fact, Romano has three starts this year with more walks than innings pitched.

Wednesday, August 30: Rafael Montero vs. Homer Bailey, 7:10 p.m. on SNY

Montero: 83.0 IP, 84 K, 43 BB, 10 HR, 5.64 ERA, 4.37 FIP, 1.76 WHIP

Montero might have been on his way to his best game of the season when he shut out Arizona through the first four innings of last Thursday’s matinee. Instead, he was pulled before he could finish the sixth inning due to a bevy of singles that resulted in three earned runs. Still, the work of Montero continues to be trend upwards, so fans should look for even more improvement when he faces a dangerous Cincinnati lineup this week.

Bailey: 56.1 IP, 43 K, 31 BB, 9 HR, 7.99 ERA, 5.54 FIP, 1.97 WHIP

Bailey looked like a future star when he threw 209 innings with a 3.49 ERA and 3.31 FIP back in 2013, but injuries have caused his stock to take a dive since then. After missing the first two-and-a-half months of 2017 due to surgery to remove bone spurs, Bailey has had trouble getting any momentum started. Even when he started with three scoreless innings against the Cubs a week ago, the 31-year-old was forced to leave early due to a sore shoulder. Fortunately, the issue wasn’t enough to send Bailey back to the disabled list, but who knows how it will affect his pitching in this next outing?

Thursday, August 31: Jacob deGrom vs. Robert Stephenson, 12:35 p.m. on SNY

deGrom: 172.2 IP, 201 K, 49 BB, 24 HR, 3.39 ERA, 3.49 FIP, 1.16 WHIP

After allowing five runs each against the Yankees and Marlins, deGrom bounced back in a big way and showed off his ace flair in Washington. New York’s most reliable pitcher allowed just one run and one walk in seven-and-two-thirds innings while striking out 10 batters. With 3.8 WAR, deGrom is now fifth in the National League, and only three pitchers in the majors have worked more innings than he has. Considering the absurd amount of injuries that the Mets have suffered this year, deGrom feels like the last man standing, and the team has got to be thinking of rewarding his durability with a new contract this winter.

Stephenson: 52.2 IP, 55 K, 35 BB, 11 HR, 5.81 ERA, 5.86 FIP, 1.75 WHIP

Stephenson started the year in the bullpen, but he’s been working mostly as a starter since being called up in July when Scott Feldman hurt his knee. The situation has been a great opportunity for the 24-year-old to show off his skills, as he’s got a 1.96 ERA this month. In his last outing against Pittsburgh, Stephenson struck out the first six batters of the game and ended up setting a career high with 11 strikeouts despite falling one out shy of finishing the sixth inning.

Prediction: Mets win two of three.

Poll

How will the Mets fare in Cincinnati this week?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Scrubs lead us to a sweep!
    (17 votes)
  • 22%
    Win two of three.
    (23 votes)
  • 28%
    Win one of three.
    (29 votes)
  • 18%
    Time to check the 2018 draft order again.
    (19 votes)
  • 14%
    Pizza!
    (15 votes)
103 votes total Vote Now