In case you were away over the weekend, the Mets just got smashed by the best team in baseball. The Dodgers came into Citi Field and swept the three-game series by the combined margin of 21-4. If New York wasn’t out of the postseason race before, it probably is now, and that means it might be our last chance to see some of our favorite veteran players in action.
With a pair of middle infielders joining Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce on the list of Mets to have cleared waivers, the front office could start wheeling and dealing again as it attempts to build up depth for 2018. Will New York try to trade Asdrubal Cabrera again or will his affordable option for next year prove too tempting? Only time will tell, but until then, there is more baseball to play with the Texas Rangers in town.
Like nearly every team in the American League, Texas isn’t completely out of the Wild Card hunt, but we’re pretty certain that Jeff Banister’s squad won’t be bringing home a third straight AL West title. Houston has a stranglehold on the division, so general manager Jon Daniels has recognized his team’s deficiencies and traded away a couple of key pieces in starting pitcher Yu Darvish and catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Coincidentally, the Mets just played against both of those players, so it’s nice that they finally get to see the team that was weakened by the two trades.
Even with Robinson Chirinos and his .289 on-base percentage replacing Lucroy in the lineup, the Texas offense is still pretty formidable. Legendary third baseman Adrian Beltre missed almost two months at the start of the campaign with a calf injury, but he’s hit like his old self since returning in late May and has to be feeling good after recording his 3,000th career hit at the end of July. The Rangers are also boosted by Elvis Andrus, who is having a career year at the plate with 15 home runs — seven more than his previous career high — to go with his usual excellent defense.
On the other side of the coin, Rougned Odor has shown that last year’s power surge wasn’t a fluke, but due to a .230 BABIP and four-percent walk rate, he’s hitting for a .283 wOBA despite 24 home runs. With their middle infield combination combining for 39 long balls, it’s no surprise that the Rangers are second in the AL behind only Houston with 171 home runs, and the biggest contributor is Joey Gallo.
Although he strikes out in a whopping 38 percent of plate appearances, Gallo has avoided becoming an Odor-like hole in the order by taking his walks and staying on pace for 40 home runs. It also doesn’t hurt that he can play first base, third base, as well as left field to help his skipper fill out the lineup.
Texas’s power-filled lineup has had issues getting on base in 2017, but a bigger problem might be a bullpen that started out the year with Sam Dyson in the closer’s role. He was such a disaster that Daniels dealt him to San Francisco in early June, and more recently the GM sent Jeremy Jeffress and his 5.31 ERA back to Milwaukee, the team he began the 2016 season with.
The good news for Texas is that the current crop of late-inning relievers has been pitching pretty well thanks to the efforts of Alex Claudio, Jose Leclerc, and Keone Kela, but this bullpen had the chance to be even better.
Tuesday, August 8: Andrew Cashner vs. Chris Flexen, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Cashner: 107.0 IP, 55 K, 43 BB, 8 HR, 3.36 ERA, 4.40 FIP, 1.35 WHIP
I know that Texas is supposed to be competing for a Wild Card berth, but Cashner would have been a great guy to unload at the trade deadline. He just wrapped up a four-start stretch in July with a 2.36 ERA even though he did little to prop up his pitiful strikeout-to-walk ratio. The former San Diego starter did better in his first August outing by refusing to walk a batter for the first time this year while hurling six innings of one-run ball against Seattle. Still, he’s pitching way over his head, so hopefully the Mets will take this opportunity to correct Cashner’s ERA for him.
Flexen: 6.0 IP, 4 K, 5 BB, 2 HR, 12.00 ERA, 9.14 FIP, 3.00 WHIP
It seemed unlikely that Flexen’s ERA would go up after his troublesome debut start, but that’s exactly what happened during his second trip to the hill in Denver. The big right-hander allowed five runs in three innings before leaving due to a blister, and it’s a little surprising to see him not miss a turn in the rotation. The Mets are cearly determined to see what they’ve got in him, so here’s hoping Citi Field treats him better than the National League West.
Wednesday, August 9: A.J. Griffin vs. Rafael Montero, 12:10 p.m. on SNY
Griffin: 45.0 IP, 39 K, 13 BB, 12 HR, 5.20 ERA, 5.81 FIP, 1.18 WHIP
After missing all of June and July with an oblique injury, Griffin came off the shelf last Thursday and threw six innings of one-run ball in Minnesota. It was one of three outings this year in which Griffin didn’t surrender a home run, as times are tough for extreme fly ball pitchers like him. The one thing the Mets aren’t lacking is home run power, so this seems like a pretty good matchup for them, but you know how that always works out.
Montero: 62.1 IP, 63 K, 32 BB, 8 HR, 5.78 ERA, 4.42 FIP, 1.76 WHIP
We told you that it would get ugly for Montero once he started allowing home runs, but now that he has, it’s not as though he has completely collapsed. The 26-year-old has let up six taters in his last three starts, but against Colorado and Oakland, he pitched pretty well, combining for 10 strikeouts and two walks in 12.2 frames. It’s that five-walk Seattle performance in the middle that’s a problem. Denver is a tough place to pitch, so Mets fans should look away from Montero’s four runs allowed in his latest appearance and instead be encouraged that he walked just one better for the fourth time in five outings.
How will the Mets fare this week against the Rangers?
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Now look who’s the juggernaut! Sweep!
Keith’s favorite: a banana split!
At least this time the series only lasted two games.