Just when it looked like the Mets might get a win on getaway day, their 3-7 road trip ended with a come-from-ahead loss to Houston on Sunday. Travelling home for a date with the Phillies, the Mets will have to get up early to play their usual Labor Day matinee, a game that back in April we thought would be part of an exciting pennant chase.
New York and Philadelphia may be closer to chasing draft position than chasing the pennant, but the Mets did make a move this holiday weekend that will make them more competitive in the present. Out of nowhere, the club signed Norichika Aoki, the veteran Japanese outfielder who debuted with Milwaukee back in 2012. Fans that are hoping for New York to tank its way to a superstar prospect might not be thrilled with the acquisition, but Aoki has one more year of arbitration left in 2018. This could be a forward-thinking depth play rather than one based only on helping the club not embarrass itself down the stretch.
Anyway, Aoki did his best to make new fans on Sunday with three hits, a walk, and a stolen base in his second game with the Mets. This week, he’ll help the team strike out less against a Philadelphia bullpen that is pitching very well lately. The closer Hector Neris has pitched seven straight scoreless innings, and the unit has been made deeper by the addition of Juan Nicasio, who was recently dumped on waivers by Pittsburgh. These Phillies relievers have very little in the way of name recognition, but general manager Matt Klentak is quietly growing them into a solid group.
That said, the biggest attraction on Philadelphia’s side of the matchup is Rhys Hoskins. We’ve talked in the past about how Klentak’s rebuild hasn’t gone exactly according to plan, but he might have hit the jackpot with Hoskins, who was drafted more than a year before the Klentak joined the organization. Since his big league debut in August, Hoskins has taken baseball by storm, slugging 11 home runs during an incredible two-week binge. The scary thing is, Hoskins’s performance doesn’t seem like a fluke. The Sacramento State product is walking often and hitting for the same kind of contact that made him such a monster at Triple-A Lehigh Valley this year. It’s still too early to know for sure, but there’s a chance that Philadelphia has found its next superstar, and Mets fans might get to catch a glimpse of him if he gets over a minor hand injury that he incurred on Sunday.
Monday, September 4: Mark Leiter vs. Rafael Montero, 1:10 p.m. on SNY
Leiter: 65.0 IP, 57 K, 25 BB, 10 HR, 3.88 ERA, 4.77 FIP, 1.23 WHIP
The nephew of Mets great Al Leiter is not left-handed, but that didn’t stop him from making the big leagues. The 26-year-old Leiter hasn’t started against his uncle’s old team yet, but he did pitch five innings of one-run ball against the Mets in a blowout loss to New York last month. He’s mostly been used out of the pen this year, but Leiter appears to be getting the hang of the rotation. His last two outings have both been starts, and they’ve totaled 13.2 innings with just three runs allowed.
Montero: 91.1 IP, 92 K, 47 BB, 10 HR, 5.12 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 1.68 WHIP
The very strange campaign for Montero continued last Wednesday, as he nearly threw a complete-game shutout against a very good Cincinnati lineup. The former prospect has looked awful at points this year, but his stretches of brilliance cannot be ignored by a franchise that cannot have enough pitching depth. With plenty of team control remaining, Montero’s time with the Mets appears far from over, and he can carve out a nice 2018 role for himself he continues to provide solid innings in September.
Tuesday, September 5: Ben Lively vs. Jacob deGrom, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Lively: 59.2 IP, 34 K, 18 BB, 8 HR, 4.22 ERA, 4.90 FIP, 1.37 WHIP
Back on June 30, Lively worked a quality start against the Mets despite giving up four walks and striking out just two batters. However, days later he was back in the minor leagues due to a roster crunch. Upon returning to the majors in August, Lively has done a better job missing bats, with one strikeout per inning last month. He’s been more effective as a result, with two quality starts to go with a bizarre four-home-run session against the Cubs.
deGrom: 178.2 IP, 206 K, 52 BB, 25 HR, 3.43 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 1.17 WHIP
deGrom was just okay in his last start at Cincinnati, but with his five strikeouts in that game, he established a career high with 206 for the season. New York’s ace is now just 13 innings and one win away from personal bests in those categories as well, so we could see some history this week. Even though his ERA is as high as it’s ever been, 2017 has been a banner season for deGrom, as he’s shown he has the durability and stamina to be a top pitcher in baseball.
Wednesday, September 6: Nick Pivetta vs. Mystery Starter, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Pivetta: 106.0 IP, 112 K, 48 BB, 21 HR, 6.28 ERA, 5.04 FIP, 1.54 WHIP
Of all the young Philadelphia hurlers, Pivetta might have the best strikeout stuff, but he’s been killed by home runs and walks this year. The Canadian right-hander dominated Triple-A in April and May by only allowing two walks and one home run over five starts, but that success hasn’t been consistent in the majors. Likewise, Pivetta has had mixed results against the Mets, allowing just one hit — of course, a home run — in seven innings on July 2 before getting blasted for six runs in four-and-two-thirds on August 11.
Mystery Starter: Since Matt Harvey had his Friday start bumped to Saturday due to Hurricane Harvey, we’ll probably see Tommy Milone step in on Wednesday and allow everyone to get their proper rest. Although Milone pitched more innings than Harvey by piggybacking during Game 1 of the Saturday doubleheader, the journeyman only threw 40 pitches compared to Harvey’s 70. The lefty has only avoided the home run ball in three appearances this year, but one of those came in his most recent start on August 27 against Washington.
Prediction: Mets win two of three.
How will the Mets fare this week against the Phillies?
This poll is closed
It’s okay to wear white after Labor Day if you come away with a sweep!
Win two of three.
Win one of three.
This is what we get for laboring on Labor Day.