Even before Hurricane Irma hit Florida, the Marlins were in a tailspin. A sweep of San Diego in late August put Miami at 66-63 and on the fringe of postseason contention, but since then our fishy friends have gone 3-17 to land themselves outside of the October conversation. Irma forcing the team to move its home series against Milwaukee to Wisconsin wasn’t exactly what the Marlins needed to get going, but the show must go on, and Don Mattingly’s club found a way to win one out of three games at Miller Park over the weekend.
In the other two games, Miami lost while giving up 10 runs. We know that the Marlins have had starting pitching issues all year, so the biggest difference between August and September has to be Giancarlo Stanton. In August, he went on an epic run, capturing baseball’s imagination with 18 home runs during the month and reminding fans of the home run race of 1998. Stanton still has Roger Maris’s old record of 61 home runs in his sights, but he’s slowed down in September with just three home runs and a .365 slugging percentage.
The rest of the team hasn’t been able to pick up the slack, as Miami is hitting just .239/.299/.356 this month. However, there’s still plenty of firepower in the offense since many of the players that were in the Opening Day lineup are still here. Trade rumors around Stanton have begun to swirl again with a new ownership group ready to take over, but it’s important to remember that the All-Star slugger, along with Dee Gordon, and Christian Yelich, are all on long-term deals that could keep them in Miami for the foreseeable future.
Considering that role players like Marcell Ozuna, Justin Bour, and J.T. Realmuto also have team control remaining, the Marlins have the core of their future offense in place if they opt to stay the course. The same can’t be said for the Mets, who are looking at Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, and a bunch of question marks for 2018. Asdrubal Cabrera also appears to be part of the puzzle, as he continued to prove his worth with a pinch-hit home run during Sunday’s series-clinching win in Atlanta. With the way the veteran infielder has persevered through this rough year, his 2018 option is looking like a great bargain, even if we don’t know what position he’ll play next season.
It’s nice that Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith haven’t completely embarrassed themselves at the big league level thus far, but we don’t know if either guy will play above replacement level in 2018. It might be wise for the Mets to spend this winter on complementary pieces at first base and shortstop, because neither phenom is likely to make huge strides between now and the end of the campaign.
We know that New York wants to buy lineup help thanks to the way it traded for every Triple-A relief pitcher this summer as well as for Miami closer A.J. Ramos. The bullpen-bloating moves don’t have the sex appeal of a blockbuster trade, but they ought to do what they are designed to do: give the Mets depth in relief without having to spend free agent dollars.
The Ramos trade was perhaps the most surprising move the Mets made this year, because it involved acquiring a veteran player at a time the team was dealing them away. It also left the Marlins without a veteran closer. Since Ramos left, it’s been Brad Ziegler picking up the saves, but he’s been unable to replicate his recent success in Miami. Next year, even with Ziegler still under contract, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Mattingly turn to a higher-upside guy like Kyle Barraclough as the new closer. If the Saint Mary’s product can get his WHIP under control, he could develop into a dominant relief pitcher.
Monday, September 18: Matt Harvey vs. Dan Straily, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Harvey: 80.2 IP, 60 K, 40 BB, 17 HR, 6.14 ERA, 6.08 FIP, 1.57 WHIP
Harvey’s start in Miami on April 16 was one of his best of the year, as he allowed just one earned run in six innings with five strikeouts and two walks. Mets fans would love to see another performance like that from the Connecticut native, especially since he’s coming off of a disastrous outing in Chicago that saw him give up five runs without escaping the fourth inning. Since returning to the rotation on September 2, Harvey has a 12.19 ERA in 10.1 frames.
Straily: 167.2 IP, 150 K, 49 BB, 28 HR, 4.24 ERA, 4.50 FIP, 1.26 WHIP
After a very consistent August in which Straily allowed either two or three runs in five straight starts, the 28-year-old has been hit a little harder lately. In three September outings, he’s let up 16 runs in 16 innings, but overall Straily has been a fine acquisition for Miami since the club traded for him in January. With three years of team control remaining after this one, the Marlins have themselves one piece of a rotation that has been an ongoing project since Jose Fernandez left us.
Tuesday, September 19: Seth Lugo vs. Mystery Starter, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Lugo: 86.1 IP, 71 K, 24 BB, 11 HR, 5.21 ERA, 4.07 FIP, 1.46 WHIP
Like Harvey, Lugo was roughed up by the Cubs last week, but at least the Louisiana native struck out more batters than he walked. Still, it wasn’t the most encouraging output from a pitcher who is fighting for a spot in the 2018 rotation. Lugo’s value is based more on his affordability and flexibility than skill on the mound, but he’s someone who can impress us every once in a while. Due to the partially torn ligament in his elbow, Lugo is going to be limited to around 80 or 90 pitches per start for the rest of the year.
Mystery Starter: Vance Worley was taken out of Miami’s rotation at the start of September, but he returned for a cameo spot start last Thursday in Philadelphia. That went so poorly — eight runs allowed in fewer than two innings — that Worley isn’t expected to make another turn in the rotation. Other potential options for Tuesday night include Odrisamer Despaigne, Justin Nicolino, and Wei-Yin Chen, but Chen might be ruled out because he’s on the way back from a UCL injury.
Wednesday, September 20: Rafael Montero vs. Jose Urena, 1:10 p.m. on SNY
Montero: 106.1 IP, 106 K, 59 BB, 10 HR, 5.08 ERA, 4.16 FIP, 1.70 WHIP
Montero needed 108 pitches to get through four-and-two-thirds innings in Atlanta last Friday, but fans should rejoice that he only walked two batters after three straight starts with at least four walks. Strangely, Montero was more efficient with his pitches in those prior outings, but we’ve all tried and failed to figure out baseball before.
Urena: 151.2 IP, 104 K, 56 BB, 22 HR, 3.62 ERA, 5.06 FIP, 1.23 WHIP
Urena doesn’t have a great strikeout-to-walk ratio and he gives up a lot of home runs, but he’s managed to put together a decent season anyway. With a .243 BABIP against him, opposing batters haven’t been able to square up the Dominican right-hander this year. He’s been pretty great in two starts against the Mets this year with three earned runs allowed in 12 innings.
Prediction: Mets win two of three.
How will the Mets fare in Miami this week?
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Sweep them off to starboard!
Win two of three.
Win one of three.
Fourth place isn’t so bad after all.