The New York Mets (31-44), losers of six straight and 13 of their last 14 at Citi Field, will look to put their recent woes behind them as they take on the Pittsburgh Pirates (36-41) for three games starting tonight. The Pirates hold the National League’s second-longest active losing streak, as they’ve dropped their last five contests.
The Mets limp into the series after being swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend. On Friday night, Zack Wheeler turned in a strong pitching performance, with a sixth inning Cody Bellinger grand slam serving as his only blemish. This proved to be more than enough for the Dodgers, as the Mets missed a number of great opportunities with runners in scoring position and dropped the opener 5-2.
On Saturday, it was again a struggling offense and a grand slam that doomed the Mets. In a game that featured a marquee pitching match-up between Clayton Kershaw — who was making his first start since coming off the disabled list — and Jacob deGrom, neither pitched like their usual dominant self. The game remained close at 3-2 until a Dodgers five-spot in the eighth — highlighted by a Matt Kemp pinch-hit grand slam — blew the game wide open and sealed the team’s fate.
The Mets allowed a record seven home runs at Citi Field in Sunday’s matinee match-up. With Jason Vargas sustaining a strained calf and landing on the disabled list, the team started Jerry Blevins and utilized most of their bullpen throughout the afternoon. Kevin Plawecki provided a glimmer of hope as he hit a game-tying, three-run home run in the eighth. However, former Met Justin Turner put Los Angeles ahead for good with an eleventh inning solo shot.
The Pirates have not fared much better as of late. They come into Citi Field after being swept at home in four games by the Arizona Diamondbacks. They managed to score just six runs in the series and have tallied just eight runs overall during the losing streak.
Pittsburgh, who traded their star outfielder Andrew McCutchen and ace Gerrit Cole in the offseason, were one of baseball’s early surprises. They sat just a half-game out of first place in the division on May 1 at 17-13, but have gone 19-28 since then and have fallen nine games back in the National League Central. They are 15-20 on the road in 2018.
There was some talk over the offseason about the Mets potentially matching up with the Pirates on a trade for either McCutchen or second baseman Josh Harrison, but no deal ended up materializing. Pittsburgh held onto Harrison, who is hitting .272/.314/.387 on the season with a 90 wRC+ and a 0.8 fWAR.
Amed Rosario is not expected to play again tonight, as Mickey Callaway is looking to get him a mental break and allow him to “work on some things.” Jose Reyes, who went 0-for-5 on Sunday and has an abysmal 40 wRC+ and -0.8 fWAR, is expected to start in his place. Brandon Nimmo, who is having a breakout season, will also be out of the lineup on Monday after leaving Sunday’s game after being hit by a pitch on the hand. Both X-Rays and an MRI on his right pinky came back negative, and he is listed as day-to-day. The club will be calling up Tyler Bashlor from Double-A Binghamton to join their bullpen. If Bashlor gets into a game, it will be his major league debut.
Monday, June 25: Jameson Taillon vs. Seth Lugo, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Taillon (2018): 82.2 IP, 78 K, 22 BB, 10 HR, 4.03 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 1.22 WHIP
Taillon, who was drafted second overall by Pittsburgh in the 2010 MLB Draft, has been solid overall this season. In his third year in the majors, he is second among Pirates starters in innings pitched, ERA, and K/9 and first in FIP. In his last four outings, he’s tossed 25 innings and allowed eight earned runs while striking out 24.
Lugo (2018): 53.2 IP, 59 K, 12 BB, 6 HR, 2.85 ERA, 3.15 FIP, 1.04 WHIP
After lowering his ERA to 1.77 following a dominant performance against the New York Yankees on June 10, Lugo has struggled in his last two starts. He gave up five earned runs in five innings to the Diamondbacks on June 15 — his first time reaching 100 pitches since August 11, 2017 — and six runs (three earned) in three innings against the Colorado Rockies. The Mets would love to see Lugo give them some length in this game to save their bullpen from further exertion.
Tuesday, June 26: Chad Kuhl vs. Steven Matz, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Kuhl (2018): 81.0 IP, 77 K, 31 BB, 14 HR, 4.56 ERA, 4.75 FIP, 1.44 WHIP
Kuhl is coming off worst start of the season, as he was tagged for eight runs (all earned) in two innings against the Diamondbacks on June 21. It’s the most runs he’s allowed since giving up nine earned runs on April 24, 2017 against the Chicago Cubs. Prior to this, Kuhl had allowed eight earned runs total over his last five starts (29-and-one-third innings).
Matz (2018): 71.0 IP, 63 K, 30 BB, 12 HR, 3.68 ERA, 5.05 FIP, 1.28 WHIP
Matz had a rough outing in Colorado his last time out against the Rockies, as he went five-and-two-thirds innings and allowed five earned runs. Despite the hiccup, Matz has looked much better and has put together a solid season with a 3.68 ERA. The most encouraging thing is that he’s made his starts every five days and has avoided the major injury that has plagued him the last three seasons.
Wednesday, June 27: Ivan Nova vs. Zack Wheeler, 7:10 p.m. on PIX
Nova (2018): 81.1 IP, 66 K, 15 BB, 11 HR, 3.98 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 1.23 WHIP
The former Yankee leads the Pirates in ERA and is coming off his best start of the season, as he shut out the first-place Diamondbacks for eight innings while striking out eight. In his last three appearances, he has given up just two earned runs total. Of all Mets hitters, Jose Bautista has the most experience facing Nova, as Bautista has tallied six hits in 21 at-bats against him.
Wheeler (2018): 81.2 IP, 79 K, 31 BB, 9 HR, 4.85 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 1.37 WHIP
Outside of a Bellinger grand slam, Wheeler gave the Mets everything they could have wanted on Friday night. He struck out seven in seven innings and threw a season-high 114 pitches in the loss. Wheeler has also had better fastball velocity as of late, as his four-seam fastball has averaged 97.04 in June after averaging 96.00 in the first two months of 2018. Recently, Wheeler has cranked his fastball up to 99mph.
Prediction: Mets win two out of three games
How will the Mets do in their three-game series against the Pirates?
This poll is closed
The Mets strike gold in a three-game sweep!
Two wins against the struggling Pirates feels good
ARRRR! Only one win and another home series loss
The Mets walk the plank, drop all three