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The Mets look to get back on track against the last place Padres

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The Mets make their sole 2018 visit to Petco Park for a three-game set in San Diego.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

After a torrid 11-1 start to the season, the New York Mets have run into their first adversity of the season, dropping seven of their last 11 to fall to 15-8 on the season. After winning their first five series of the 2018 season—including a nine game winning streak—the Mets have dropped their last three series, and are 2-4 on their current road trip after the defense and bullpen combined to squander a stellar Noah Syndergaard start and give away the rubber game in St. Louis Thursday afternoon.

The Mets enter San Diego with a sluggish offense and potentially exhausted bullpen, but they have to feel good about starting the series with Jacob deGrom on the hill. deGrom has exited his last two games after pitching at least seven innings, having surrendered no more than one run and with his team at least three runs ahead, yet neither deGrom nor the Mets have recorded the victory in either start. Jason Vargas will make his season debut in the middle game, and Zack Wheeler looks to bounce back from an erratic four inning start in the opener against St. Louis Tuesday.

On the offensive side, the Mets have been scuffling of late. Yoenis Cespedes’s propensity for the big hit (23 RBI thus far) has been at least partially offset by his 39.8% K rate. Michael Conforto continues to reach base at an elite rate (.403 OBP), but has yet to get his bat untracked (.222 BA, .333 slugging). The Adrian Gonzalez experiment is showing signs that it is time to pull the plug, as he has gone 4 for his last 32 and is down to a .203/.309/.322 slash line. And the Jose Lobaton/Tomas Nido catching duo has been an offensive black hole. On the brigher side, Jay Bruce has shown signs of coming out of a season-long slump on this road trip, going 6-13 in St. Louis with a game-winning home run Tuesday night.

The Padres are off to a rough start, sitting at 9-17 and mired in the basement of what is shaping up to once again be a very competitive NL West. Christian Villanueva announced that this could be a breakout season for him early, hitting three home runs on April 3, and he has not slowed since—tied for seventh in MLB with 1.4 fWAR over only 72 plate appearances.

The rest of the offense, well—hasn’t exactly kept up with the late-blooming Villanueva. Relatively inexplicable offseason free agent splurge Eric Hosmer has struggled to live up to his large contract, slashing .259/.364/.412 over 99 plate appearances. Franchy Cordero certainly shows flashes—as his recent 489 ft. home run demonstrated—but his 38.9 K% indicates that there is still room for development left.

Saturday’s starter, rookie Joey Lucchesi, has been a pleasant surprise in the Padres’ rotation, but the bullpen represents the strength of the Padres’ staff, led by closer Brad Hand, who has recorded six saves and put up a 13.86 K/9 rate in the back end of the pen. Craig Stammen and lefty specialist Kirby Yates have added impressive set up work, and if we are lucky—for pure entertainment purposes—we will see as much as possible of Kazuhisa Makita, his sidearm wind-up, and his whiffle ball-esque 58 mph curveball.

Probable Pitchers

Friday, April 27: Jacob deGrom vs. Clayton Richard, 10:10 p.m. on SNY

deGrom (2018): 32.0 IP, 40 K, 8 BB, 2 HR, 2.53 ERA, 2.34 FIP, 1.03 WHIP

Jacob deGrom has been his typical stellar self thus far in 2018, putting up an 11.25 K/9 rate and 5.00 K/BB rate over his first five starts of the year. deGrom is 2-0 on the young season, though he could easily be 4-0 after seeing the Met bullpen blow multiple run leads in each of his last two starts.

Richard (2018): 27 IP, 22 K, 13 BB, 5 HR, 5.67 ERA, 5.41 FIP, 1.63 WHIP

Richard had several good years with the Padres from 2010-2012 before needing to surgery relieve symptoms related to thoracic outlet syndrome. Richard subsequently bounced around for several years after his recovery, struggling before ultimately reinventing himself in what could be construed as an instructive, feel-good tale. That Richard was the Padres’ Opening Day starting pitcher speaks more to the lack of depth in their rotation, as he has struggled since his solid Opening Day start, going exactly five innings in each of his last four starts while surrendering at least three earned runs in each.

Saturday, April 28: Jason Vargas vs. Joey Lucchesi, 8:40 p.m. on WPIX

Vargas (2017): 179.2 IP, 134 K, 58 BB, 27 HR, 4.16 ERA, 4.67 FIP, 1.33 WHIP

A late free agent signing at the dawn of 2018 spring training, Vargas is slated to make his regular season debut after being sidelined late in spring with a fracture of the hamate bone in his non-throwing hand after being struck by a comebacker. The Mets hope Vargas can be a steady, inning-eating presence in a rotation that is struggling beyond their top two aces, and will have to hope that he pitches more to his 2017 numbers—when he pitched to a 2.62 ERA and 3.80 FIP—than his second half results last year (6.38 ERA, 5.94 FIP).

Lucchesi (2018): 26.2 IP, 29 K, 8 BB, 2 HR, 2.70 ERA, 2.89 FIP, 1.13 WHIP

An honorable-mention selection who just missing making Fangraphs’ top-100 prospect list this offseason, Lucchesi has started his rookie season looking to outdo those expectations. The lefty’s fastball sits 89-92 mph, maxing out at 94, but his deceptive delivery makes for a ball that is hard to pick up. Lucchesi has maintained his high minor league strikeout rate over his first five starts in the majors, with a 9.79 K/9 rate thus far. He did struggle a bit in his last start against the Diamondbacks (five innings, four earned runs), and the Padres are clearly trying to manage his workload (no more than six innings pitched over those first five starts).

Sunday, April 29: Zack Wheeler vs. Bryan Mitchell, 4:10 p.m. on WPIX

Wheeler (2018): 17 IP, 12 K, 6 BB, 2 HR, 4.24 ERA, 4.54 FIP, 1.24 WHIP

After starting the year in Las Vegas for all of one start, Zack Wheeler was quickly summoned to return to the Mets’ rotation, and will remain so for now with Matt Harvey’s unfortunate struggles relegating him to the bullpen. Wheeler’s results have trended downward since his impressive seven inning return in Miami on April 11. Wheeler settled down after a rough first inning against the Nationals, but struggled in Tuesday’s opener against the Cardinals, only getting through four innings. Wheeler will likely need to show more consistency to remain in the 2018 rotation for the long term.

Mitchell (2018): (2018): 25 IP, 9 K, 19 BB, 4 HR, 5.76 ERA, 6.95 FIP, 1.88 WHIP

Nope, those strikeout/walk numbers were not transposed. After making sporadic appearances in the Yankees bullpen over the previous two seasons, Mitchell was shipped to the Padres this offseason, as San Diego hoped to turn him into a starter. The experiment has been a wild one thus far, as Mitchell has pitched to an unbelievable 0.47 K/BB rate. Might be a good game to get Brandon Nimmo some at-bats.

Prediction: Mets win two of three.

Poll

How will the Mets fare in San Diego?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    Back on track with a sweep!
    (70 votes)
  • 38%
    Two of three and win an actual series? I’ll take it.
    (60 votes)
  • 8%
    One for three.
    (14 votes)
  • 3%
    Swept out of Petco Park.
    (6 votes)
  • 3%
    Pizza!
    (6 votes)
156 votes total Vote Now