The red-hot New York Mets (10-1), who own the best record in Major League Baseball—no, you’re not dreaming—return home to begin a three-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers (7-6) this weekend. The Mets have been on fire all season and are riding an eight-game winning streak, fresh off of three consecutive series sweeps of the Phillies, Nationals, and Marlins.
The so-called “Five Aces” finally made their first official go-round this past week. After Steven Matz and Matt Harvey pitched over the weekend, Noah Syndergaard made the start Monday in Miami and was backed up by yet another strong showing from the bullpen in a 4-2 win. Jacob deGrom had a rough fifth inning Tuesday night, giving up four runs including a two-run home run from Justin Bour, who had two on the night. Despite trailing by two in the eighth, the Mets of 2018 didn’t quit and came back to win 8-6 on timely home runs from Wilmer Flores and Asdrubal Cabrera, who is currently riding a 10-game hitting streak. A two-run double in the ninth by Yoenis Cespedes put the Mets on top for good.
Finally, Zack Wheeler made a triumphant return to the rotation Wednesday, going seven innings and striking out seven. He cruised after surrendering a solo homer to Miguel Rojas in the first inning and led the Mets to a 4-1 win.
Despite the winning ways of the club, the Mets’ catching situation took a turn for the worse when news broke Wednesday of Travis d’Arnaud possibly needing Tommy John surgery to repair a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Kevin Plawecki had an injury scare himself, getting hit on the left hand by a 100 MPH fastball from Marlins reliever Tayron Guerrero. In what seems like Mets luck of old, X-rays for Plawecki initially came back negative but news broke Friday morning that indeed Plawecki’s hand is in fact broken and will miss time. Tomas Nido was called up from Double-A Binghamton and veteran catcher Jose Lobaton, who has been in Triple-A Las Vegas, should be on his way to New York as well. If d’Arnaud or David Wright is transferred to the 60-day DL, it would open up a 40-man roster spot for him.
On the other side, the Brewers have been a better road team in the early part of the season, sweeping the Padres in San Diego and taking two of three in St. Louis over the Cardinals. After a surprising season and just missing out by one game on a Wild Card berth in 2017, the Brewers doubled down in free agency and the trade market for 2018. A blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins brought outfielder Christian Yelich to the Brew Crew and sent three of the Brewers’ top-10 prospects—Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, and Isan Diaz—to South Beach.
Milwaukee also made one of the biggest splashes in free agency by signing a familiar foe from the 2015 World Series: former Kansas City Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain (5 years, $80 million). Jhoulys Chacin (2 years, $15.5 million) was added after a renaissance season in San Diego, providing a veteran presence in the starting rotation. The Brewers’ bullpen also received a boost in the additions of Matt Albers (2 years, $5 million), Boone Logan (1 year, $2.5 million), and Dan Jennings (1 year, $750k).
The Brewers have not been successful in avoiding the injury bug, as Yelich has been out with a right oblique injury but could return as early as this Sunday. The aforementioned Boone Logan is missing the first six weeks of the season with a triceps injury, and Milwaukee’s projected closer for 2018, Corey Knebel, strained his hamstring while getting some work in an 8-0 loss to the Cubs on April 6.
Since Knebel’s injury, which will likely keep him out of action for a couple of months, the Brewers’ bullpen has been both shaky and overworked. 56.1 innings in 13 games has not been ideal for manager Craig Counsell. He will need his starters to go deeper in games, a tall task for a rotation already missing Jimmy Nelson, who needed surgery after suffering a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder diving back into first base during a game last September. Matt Albers, Jacob Barnes, and Jeremy Jeffress will be the go-to late game options in the ‘pen for Milwaukee for the time being.
Longtime Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun has been learning to play first base to help accommodate the new arrivals in the outfield Yelich and Cain while also giving upstart Domingo Santana, fresh off a 30-home run campaign in 2017, more playing time. With Yelich out, however, expect Braun in the outfield this weekend with a platoon of a couple of power hitters, Eric Thames and Jesus Aguilar, manning first base.
Friday, April 13: Zach Davies vs. Steven Matz, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Davies (2018): 11.2 IP, 14 K, 3 BB, 2 HR, 5.40 ERA, 3.91 FIP, 1.28 WHIP
Davies had a strong outing against the Cubs on Saturday, punching out eight in six innings. He didn’t have a single start with more than seven strikeouts in 2017, despite winning 17 games.
Matz (2018): 9.0 IP, 12 K, 5 BB, 2 HR, 3.00 ERA, 4.94 FIP, 1.33 WHIP
Matz had a nice bounce-back game versus the Nationals on Saturday, allowing one run (none earned) on three hits with eight strikeouts. His 93 pitches in five innings of work is something that will need work for sure. Limiting walks and deep counts will be key for Matz moving forward.
Saturday, April 14: Chase Anderson vs. Matt Harvey, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Anderson (2018): 16 IP, 13 K, 5 BB, 4 HR, 3.38 ERA, 5.99 FIP, 1.12 WHIP
Anderson took a hard-luck loss last Sunday against the Cubs, throwing six innings and allowing two runs on four hits with two strikeouts. Acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016 that sent Jean Segura to the desert for one season, Anderson has been serviceable as the Brewers’ number one starter so far in 2018. His two quality starts book-end a not-so-good start at home against St. Louis.
Harvey (2018): 10 IP, 7 K, 2 BB, 1 HR, 3.60 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 1.20 WHIP
With the ESPN spotlight shining on Sunday night, Harvey was not as sharp as his first start of the season, allowing four runs on nine hits, including a Bryce Harper home run. Despite the high hit total, Harvey battled through a tough Nationals lineup through five innings as the Mets won in extras. The next step for Harvey will be to go beyond the fifth inning and earn a quality start.
Sunday, April 15: Jhoulys Chacin vs. Noah Syndergaard, 1:10 p.m. on SNY
Chacin (2018): 13.2 IP, 7 K, 7 BB, 0 HR, 6.59 ERA, 6.64 FIP, 1.90 WHIP
After a bad 2016 split between the Braves and Angels, Chacin posted his best stats since 2013 with the Padres last season, striking out a career-high 153 batters with a 3.89 ERA in 180.1 innings. Chacin got a nice contract from Milwaukee out of it, but he hasn’t had a nice start to his season. Coming off 4.2 innings and allowing three runs on five hits and three walks, Chacin will be looking for a deeper and sharper outing on Sunday.
Syndergaard (2018): 16 IP, 22 K, 4 BB, 2 HR, 3.94 ERA, 2.86 FIP, 1.18 WHIP
Syndergaard showed better command compared to his previous start versus Philadelphia by striking out five Marlins and walking two on 90 pitches in a 4-2 win, a far cry from his 92 pitches in four innings last Wednesday. Look for Thor to drop the hammer often, as Milwaukee batters are sixth in the MLB with 116 strikeouts in 2018.
Prediction: The winning streak will end, but the Mets take two of three.
How will the Mets fare against the Brewers in this series?
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Can’t stop, won’t stop...161-1!!!
Taking two of three wouldn't be all that bad
Mets win one, but lose first series of 2018
Panic Citi back in full effect: swept by the Brew Crew