The New York Mets (59-74) visit the west coast for the final time in 2018 to take on the San Francisco Giants (67-68). The two teams squared off last week at Citi Field and split their four-game set. For the second consecutive month, the Mets will enter the final game looking to secure their first winning month since April. They are currently 15-14 in August after going 12-12 in July.
The Mets are coming off a series loss to the Chicago Cubs, which isn’t especially note-worthy considering where the two teams reside in the standings. What is surprising is the fact that they dropped the games started by Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom while winning the game started by Jason Vargas.
In a completely unforeseen development, Vargas has won three straight starts and has posted a 1.99 ERA and a 3.51 FIP in four outings dating back to August 14. It’s especially impressive that his latest victory (5.1 innings, one earned run, six strikeouts) came against the National League’s best squad.
Following the win, Mickey Callaway expressed confidence in Vargas, saying, “It’s refreshing to know we have a guy we can count on moving forward.” Whether that trust is warranted in the long term remains to be seen, but Vargas will have six more chances this year to prove his value.
Regardless, deGrom’s outing was still the series highlight. In another ho hum effort, he went eight innings and allowed one earned run while striking out 10 (his ninth double-digit strikeout performance of 2018), while driving in the team’s only run with a sixth inning single. In the process, he lowered his league-leading ERA and FIP to 1.68 and 2.03, respectively. As Gary Cohen so eloquently put it, he has been “unrelentingly brilliant”.
One of the lesser talked about pitchers who has had a positive impact in 2018 is Drew Smith. He pitched two scoreless innings in the Cubs series and has allowed just one earned run in his past 11 appearances spanning 12.2 innings. Smith is sporting a sparkling 1.62 ERA in his first go-around in the major leagues and looks to be one of the better players that the team acquired during last year’s sell-off.
On offense, the Mets have to be encouraged by what they saw from shortstop Amed Rosario, who collected seven hits in 15 at-bats against the Cubs. Rosario, whose defense has also improved greatly since the start of the year, has started to pick it up with his bat as well. He’s hitting .326 (29-for-89) over his last 20 games with a .823 OPS and a 125 wRC+.
In that time, he’s served as the team’s leadoff hitter and has looked comfortable as the table-settler for the offense, opening each of the last three games against Chicago with a hit. On the season, he’s batting .248 in 153 at-bats when leading off.
Since leaving New York, the Giants returned home and took two out of three from both the Texas Rangers and the Arizona Diamondbacks. In their last series, they shut out Arizona 2-0 and 1-0 before dropping the finale by a 3-1 score. Their starting pitching was especially brilliant, allowing just three earned runs in 20 innings (1.35 ERA).
The Mets will be happy to miss Madison Bumgarner, who traditionally dominates them, this time around. Bumgarner is undefeated in seven starts against them and owns a 1.69 ERA. In his last outing, he saw his 33-inning scoreless streak at Citi Field end on a Todd Frazier solo home run, but that was the extent of the damage through his eight-inning performance. On the season, Bumgarner has a 2.68 ERA and a 3.80 FIP in 16 starts.
The Mets also will not see Andrew McCutchen in this series, as the Giants traded him to the New York Yankees last night for prospects Abiatal Avelino and Juan De Paula. McCutchen, a five-time All-Star and the 2013 National League MVP, led San Francisco with 15 home runs. In his only season for the club, he finished with a 115 wRC+ and a 1.8 fWAR while playing 130 games. Even with McCutchen, the Giants were one of the worst offenses in the National League, ranking in the bottom five in wRC+ (87), home runs (115), runs scored (527), and fWAR (9.1)
Friday, August 30: Zack Wheeler vs. Andrew Suarez, 10:15 p.m. on SNY
Wheeler (2018): 153.1 IP, 150 K, 50 BB, 12 HR, 3.46 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 1.21 WHIP
Wheeler will look to put an exclamation mark on what has been the best month of his young career when he toes the rubber on Friday night. In his last start against the Washington Nationals, he pitched seven shutout innings and scattered six hits while striking out four. It was his fourth time going seven innings in the month and his fifth time since the All-Star break. Wheeler has a 1.09 ERA, a 2.40 FIP, and a 0.94 WHIP in 33 August innings and now owns the second best ERA among Mets starting pitchers.
Suarez (2018): 126.1 IP, 108 K, 34 BB, 18 HR, 4.42 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 1.32 WHIP
Suarez threw a career high 106 pitches in his seven-inning, three-hit victory against the Rangers. It was the one of the best starts of the year for the rookie, who has shown glimpses of brilliance in between some frustrating starts. His last three outings have been a perfect example, as he had an abysmal outing against the Cincinnati Reds that saw him go 2.2 innings and allow seven runs (five earned) sandwiched in between two shutouts.
Saturday, September 1: Steven Matz vs. Derek Holland, 4:05 p.m. on SNY
Matz (2018): 121.1 IP, 113 K, 44 BB, 20 HR,4.36 ERA, 4.75 FIP, 1.31 WHIP
Matz has rebounded nicely from a rough start against the Philadelphia Phillies on August 16, tossing 12 innings across his last two starts and allowing three earned runs on seven hits with 12 strikeouts. In his last outing, he matched his season high by going seven innings and allowed just one run but was saddled with a hard-luck loss. If Matz can remain healthy in September, he would reach 30 starts for the first time in his young career, which would be a milestone for the oft-injured left-hander.
Holland (2018): 140.2 IP, 141 K, 52 BB, 16 HR, 3.65 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 1.28 WHIP
Signing Holland to a minor league deal has turned out to be a steal for the Giants. Although he started the year off with a 5.66 ERA through seven starts, he has put it all together as of late. Since returning to the rotation following a brief stint in the bullpen in July, Holland has posted a 2.56 ERA, a 3.55 FIP, and a 1.22 WHIP in seven starts spanning 38.1 innings. Holland held the Rangers to one run on three hits in 6.1 innings during his last start on August 26.
Sunday, September 2: Noah Syndergaard vs. Chris Stratton, 4:05 p.m. on SNY
Syndergaard (2018): 112.2 IP, 117 K, 25 BB, 6 HR, 3.51 ERA, 2.63 FIP, 1.28 WHIP
Syndergaard had another uneven start and continued to look very hittable despite throwing a 100mph fastball. Syndergaard allowed four runs on nine hits while striking out six in the six-inning outing. He especially struggled in the first three innings, as he withstood a barrage of hard-hit line drives at the hands of the potent Cubs offense. He settled down after that and retire nine of the last 10 hitters he faced. He closed out August with a 4.74 ERA, a 2.74 FIP, and a 1.34 WHIP in 38 innings pitched.
Stratton (2018): 115.1 IP, 89 K, 41 BB, 14 HR, 4.99 ERA, 4.31 FIP, 1.46 WHIP
Stratton gave the Giants something to smile about in his last start, as he shut out the Diamondbacks through eight innings of work while scattering five hits. It was a welcome sight for the Giants, who have watched their 2012 first round pick struggle through much of the season. Coming into that outing, he sported an ugly 5.37 ERA. He handled the Mets fairly well in a start against them on August 21, allowing two earned runs on six hits through 6.1 innings.
Prediction: The Mets will drop two out of three against the Giants.
How will the Mets fare in their three-game series against the Giants?
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Mets stomp on the Giants and complete a sweep
Mets take two out of three to get back on track
Mets swipe a game but drop another series on the road
The Mets will be crushed by the Giants in a sweep