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Mets visit a rebuilding division rival in Miami

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Mets look to continue hot start against young, unfamiliar Marlins.

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It would be hard for Mets fans to have dreamed up a better first extended week of the season than the one that has just transpired. Sure, an Opening Day win is pretty much de rigueur for this franchise, but success in the ensuing 161 can sometimes prove more elusive. After taking two out of three from a strong Cardinals team to start the season, the Mets swept five straight divisional games, two from the Phillies and—more significantly—three straight from the divisional favorite Nationals in Washington. The Mets’ 7-1 start matches those of the auspicious 1985 and 2006 seasons for the best in franchise history.

The good mojo is in shockingly strong supply, as new manager Mickey Callaway seems to be mostly pushing the right buttons and continues his adept early season bullpen management. Jeurys Familia earned a five out save to claim Saturday’s tight victory, then got the night off in Sunday night’s 12 inning affair, as Seth Lugo pitched three solid innings for the victory and Jacob Rhame came on for the save. The offense continues to be an everyone chipping in kind of affair, with Asdrubal Cabrera (.921 OPS over 33 at-bats) off to a particularly impressive start, and Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez both launching clutch grand slams in Washington.

The pitching is also off to a great start, let by a bullpen with a 1.31 ERA over 34.1 innings thus far. The starters have also been largely solid, led thus far by Tuesday’s starter Jacob deGrom, with 2 wins and a 1.54 ERA over 11.2 innings in his first two starts. Lugo’s three impressive relief innings last night mean that Zack Wheeler will come up from AAA Las Vegas to follow Noah Syndergaard and deGrom and complete at least one turn through the Mets’ long dreamt-of rotation as the team makes its first visit of the season to Miami.

There the Mets will find a much-changed division rival. The Marlins finished 2017 at 77-85, in second place in the N.L. East (20 games behind Washington). However, in late summer of 2017, the franchise was purchased by a group fronted by Derek Jeter, and speculation was rife that new ownership might commence with a bit of a rebuild. (Voiceover: They did.)

Gone is the entire presumptive best outfield in baseball—Met-killer Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna in what were largely perceived as salary dumps bringing in mostly lesser prospects, Christian Yelich in a prospect-package headed by Lewis Brinson from the Milwaukee Brewers. Their biggest returning name—J.T. Realmuto—has been on the shelf since Opening Day with a back injury. Their starting rotation appears thin, but the bullpen has some solid options, with strikeout artists Kyle Barraclough and Drew Steckenrider in front of closer Brad Ziegler.

New third baseman Brian Anderson is off to a hot start with a .393 wOBA over his first 43 plate appearances, while returning slugger Justin Bour has started slow, with a .212 slugging percentage over his first 36 plate appearances. As a whole, the new-look, rebuilding Marlins are off to a slow 3-6 start highlighted by a rough -28 run differential (thanks in large part to a 20-1 drubbing in Philadelphia this weekend). In a town that has often bedeviled them, the Mets will look to stay hot, and ensure that a team expected to struggle continues to do so.

Probable pitchers

Monday, April 9: Noah Syndergaard vs. Jose Urena, 7:10 p.m. on SNY

Syndergaard (2018): 10 IP, 17 K, 2 BB, 2 HR, 5.40 ERA, 2.82 FIP, 1.00 WHIP

While still racking up strikeouts at the prodigious rate one would expect, Syndergaard has struggled a bit—at least by his standards—over his first two starts. His 2.82 FIP obviously indicates that improvement can be expected, and by his own admission Syndergaard struggled in the extreme cold Tuesday at Citi Field. Perhaps the warm environs will bring out the preseason Cy Young Award dark horse many expected to see this year.

Urena (2018): 11 IP, 9 K, 5 BB, 2 HR, 4.91 ERA, 5.93 FIP, 1.36 WHIP

Urena put up an impressive 14-7 record over 28 starts with the Marlins last season, although a 5.20 FIP indicated that his 3.82 ERA might have been the result of pitching into a bit of luck. In a small sample, Urena is showing increased usage of his slider thus far in 2018 (30.6% usage) to compliment a fastball which averages 95.8 MPH.

Tuesday, April 10: Jacob deGrom vs. Caleb Smith, 7:10 p.m. on SNY

deGrom (2018): 11.2 IP, 12 K, 4 BB, 0 HR, 1.54 ERA, 2.00 FIP, 1.03 WHIP

Jacob deGrom is off to a typically delightful start, winning his first two appearances while pitching to a 1.54 ERA. deGrom showed his propensity for battling in his last start in Washington, getting out of a bases-loaded, no out situation in the sixth inning to hold the lead. After allowing an uncharacteristic 28 home runs in 2017, he has yet to surrender one this season—if he can keep the ball in the yard more than last year, perhaps it could be deGrom as much as Syndergaard in award conversation at the end of the year.

Smith (2018): 8.1 IP, 12 K, 9 BB, 1 HR, 4.32 ERA, 4.94 FIP, 1.80WHIP

Acquired from the Yankees in a minor offseason deal, Caleb Smith flashes a lot of ability—and a lot of wildness. The Marlins decided to take a shot on a lefty who flashed a 93.6 MPH fastball and a 13.0% swinging-strike rate in 18.2 innings in The Bronx in 2017. Smith has understandably only gone 8.1 innings in his two starts, as a 30% K rate and 22.5% BB rate will tend to have that effect.

Wednesday, April 11: Zack Wheeler vs. Jarlin Garcia, 7:10 p.m. on SNY

Wheeler (2017): 86.1 IP, 81 K, 40 BB, 15 HR, 5.21 ERA, 5.03 FIP, 0.75 WHIP

Zack Wheeler had a rough spring, finishing behind Steven Matz and Seth Lugo in the rotation battle. However, Jason Vargas’s injury combined with Lugo’s success in the pen--and long outing in extras against the Nationals—has opened the door for Wheeler. After a successful initial outing in Las Vegas, Wheeler will get the call in Miami, after which...we will see.

Garcia (2018): 10 IP, 8 K, 4 BB, 1 HR, 1.80 ERA, 3.92 FIP, 0.90 WHIP

Jarlin Garcia will be making the first start of his major league career after two incredibly successful relief outings—including six one-hit innings in the Marlins marathon 17 inning win over the Cubs in their second game of the season. The lefty mixes in a fastball averaging 91.4 MPH this season with a slider and a change-up.

Over/Unders: Cumulative attendance over three-game series: 31,999.

Derek Jeter appearances on camera: 31,999

Prediction: Chris McShane says sweep. So sweep!

Poll

How will the Mets fare against the Marlins in this series?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    No stopping this train—161-1, baby!
    (76 votes)
  • 48%
    Two out of three would be...acceptable.
    (109 votes)
  • 3%
    Win one, but Met lose first series of 2018
    (8 votes)
  • 6%
    Jeet + Ringz = Miami sweep
    (15 votes)
  • 7%
    Pizza!
    (17 votes)
225 votes total Vote Now