Tonight, the Mets will finally be back at Citi Field. By calendar days, the road trip they just took was not the longest in team history, not by a long shot. But by the emotional toll exacted upon the team itself and its fans, it felt like a whole lot longer than it was, especially with all of the rain and non-rain delays that plagued the first three games of their four-game set in Atlanta.
Looking back at the trip from a broader perspective, it’s kind of amazing that the team went 3-5 considering all five of the losses were of the soul-crushing variety. As the team returns to Queens, there are players to be excited about. Brandon Nimmo continued to cement his status as the best and most important hitter on the team. Amed Rosario wasn’t perfect in the field but flashed some excellent leather and hit .357/.400/.571 with a 169 wRC+, easily one of his best seven-day stretches in his young big league career. Michael Conforto raked, too, and the Mets continued to get very good production from veterans Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Bautista, and Devin Mesoraco.
On the downside, the Mets will be missing Noah Syndergaard for at least this turn through the rotation, with Seth Lugo starting in his place tonight, because of a finger injury. They may also miss Steven Matz for a start in this series because of his own finger injury, though unlike Syndergaard, he isn’t on the disabled list yet. And, of course, the bullpen spent the vast majority of the road trip looking completely untrustworthy.
But the Mets are 27-26, still just 4.5 games out of first place in the National League East. The Cubs are nothing to sneeze at with their 29-23 record, but the Mets have a chance to gain some ground in the division if they can handle the Cubs, as the Braves and Nationals are set to play each other for four games beginning tonight. The weather might interfere with this series in Queens a bit, too, with the forecast on Saturday the most daunting at the time of this writing, but here’s hoping they get all four games in without needing to play a doubleheader.
Thursday, May 31, 7:10 PM EDT: Seth Lugo vs. Jose Quintana (LHP)
Lugo has plenty of starting experience in the big leagues, but this will be his first start of the 2018 season. There’s been a lot of clamoring for him to get into the rotation anyway, given the struggles of Jason Vargas, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz, and this is his first chance to seize a rotation spot and hold onto it for the long haul.
One of the best relatively unknown pitchers in baseball for several years, Quintana hasn’t quite been great since the beginning of the 2017 season. He had a 4.15 ERA in total last year, though he fared much better in his 14 starts with the Cubs than he had in his 18 with the White Sox to begin the season. But ten starts into this season, he had a 4.78 ERA and 4.69 FIP. His walk rate is way up, and the Mets used that to their advantage even against Julio Teheran. And the fact that he’s left-handed means the Mets will probably sit one of Nimmo, Conforto, or Bruce in this game, with everyone who watches these games hoping it’s Bruce—or at least Adrian Gonzalez with Bruce at first.
Friday, June 1, 7:10 PM EDT: Zack Wheeler vs. Tyler Chatwood
At times, it’s felt like Wheeler has been much better than this, but he has a 5.40 ERA on the season in nine starts. Two of his last four starts have been among his best of the season, both of them being of the six-inning, one-run variety. But the other two weren’t nearly as good, with a total of ten runs allowed in ten innings, giving him a 4.91 ERA over those four starts in total—and summarizing his larger season in a short span.
Chatwood was on the radar of a bunch of Mets fans over the offseason after putting up a couple of pretty impressive years with the Rockies, but the Cubs knew they needed starting pitching and signed him. He’s been a mixed bag with the team, as he has issued the most walks in baseball with a staggering rate of 8.4 per nine or 20.3 percent. His strikeout total is slightly lower than his walk total, but he’s avoided getting totally destroyed by limiting home runs and not giving up a boatload of hits. Still, he seems lucky to have a 4.10 ERA on the season.
Saturday, June 2, 7:15 PM EDT: Jacob deGrom vs. TBD
There’s not much to say here that you don’t already know. deGrom is one of the very best pitchers in the game and should be considered the leading contender for the National League Cy Young award. If the Mets could get him some wins, as much as we don’t generally care about that stat around here, it would be a nice bonus toward his case for that award.
Sunday, June 3, 1:10 PM EDT: TBD vs. Jon Lester (LHP)
The Mets will be in a bit of a weird spot if Matz can’t make this start, as Jason Vargas would be their only current starter who could make it, but he’d have to pitch on three days’ rest again, as he just did—successfully—in Atlanta. It’s just hard to see the Mets asking that of him.
As for Lester, the Mets have handled him pretty well in the past,but he’s still a good pitcher. Coming off a down year in 2017, in which he had a 4.33 ERA in 32 starts, he’s off to a much better start this year with a 2.71 in his first eleven. But he does have a 4.29 FIP, which is much worse than his career norm and more in line with the way he pitched last year.
How will the Mets do in their four-game series against the Cubs?
This poll is closed
Four-game sweep of the Cubs, 2015 NLCS style
Three out of four, gain some NL East ground
An even split
Lose three of four
Cubs sweep Mets, Panic City population grows exponentially