The New York Mets conclude their nine-game road trip with three games against the National League West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. The clubs faced off at Citi Field in June, with Los Angeles emerging victorious in all three games.
While the offense slept through much of the the three-game set against the San Francisco Giants, the starting pitching took charge to secure a series win. Zack Wheeler started things off on Friday by pitching seven strong innings and allowing one earned run, but he was saddled with a hard-luck loss thanks to the lineup’s inability to score and a bullpen implosion that put the game out of reach.
Steven Matz followed that up on Saturday with seven stellar innings of his own. He let up one earned run while striking out a career-high 11 to get the team back on track. Not to be outdone, Noah Syndergaard provided the exclamation point on Sunday with his first career complete game, as he struck out 11 while allowing one earned run. Overall, the trio limited the Giants to just nine hits during the series. In their last 15 games, Mets starters have posted a 1.61 ERA (18 earned runs allowed in 100.2 innings pitched).
After the team erupted for 10 runs in the series finale against the Chicago Cubs last Wednesday, the bats produced just six runs on 17 hits against Giants pitching. The Mets have received a lot of their offensive contributions from Todd Frazier as of late. In his last 25 games, he’s hitting .283 (26-for-92) with six home runs. In that span, he’s posted a 140 wRC+ and a .901 OPS. Tomas Nido, who had just seven hits coming into the series, picked up three in eight at-bats as Mickey Callaway gave him the start behind the plate on Saturday and Sunday with Kevin Plawecki away on paternity leave.
Despite hitting a two-run home run on Sunday, Michael Conforto has struggled offensively. In his last 10 games, he’s just 5-for-31 (.161) with a 78 wRC+. Wilmer Flores, who has put up solid offensive numbers as a starter for most of the season, has also hit a rough patch. Flores has a .179 average (5-for-30) in his last 10 games with a 27 wRC+. In nine games since returning from the disabled list, Jay Bruce is 7-for-30 (.233) with an 87 wRC+.
The Mets will look to end a 12-game losing streak to the Dodgers that dates back to May 28, 2016. Unfortunately for them, they are visiting Los Angeles at the worst possible time. The Dodgers come into the series red-hot after taking three of four from the Arizona Diamondbacks and reclaiming the lead in the National League West. They have won eight of nine overall.
The Dodgers took the last three games against the Diamondbacks by an identical 3-2 score with the weekend victories coming courtesy of Matt Kemp’s late-innings heroics. On Saturday, Kemp connected on a three-run home run with one out in the eighth to lead his team to victory. He played hero again on Sunday, hitting a two-run, ninth inning double that completed another comeback and catapulted the team into first place.
Kemp, who was reacquired by the Dodgers over the offseason from the Atlanta Braves as part of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, has been revitalized by his return. Kemp was selected to his first All-Star team since 2012 and has a 120 wRC+ and a 1.5 fWAR while hitting .284 with 19 home runs on the season.
The Dodgers front office, recognizing that their team needed help for the playoff push, made two waiver-wire trades before the deadline. In a boost to their struggling bullpen, the team picked up Ryan Madson from the Washington Nationals. With just a few minutes left to spare before the deadline, Los Angeles picked up former World Series MVP David Freese from the Pittsburgh Pirates to serve as a versatile right-handed bat off the bench while starting some games at first base and third base.
This series will be the last time the Mets will ever have to face Chase Utley, who announced his retirement in July. Utley, who tormented the Mets during his 13 years in Philadelphia and injured Ruben Tejada while sliding into second base during Game Two of the 2015 NLDS, has spent his last the last three-and-a-half years in Dodger Blue and has been relegated to a supporting role over the past two seasons. In 2018, he’s hitting .238/.319/.340 in 147 at-bats.
Monday, September 3: Jacob deGrom vs. Alex Wood, 8:10 p.m. on SNY
deGrom (2018): 182.0 IP, 224 K, 41 BB, 8 HR, 1.68 ERA, 2.02 FIP, 0.98 WHIP
deGrom made another convincing entry into his bid to win the Cy Young award against the Cubs. He went eight innings, allowed one earned run, and struck out 10 (his ninth double-digit strikeout game in 2018). It was his 19th consecutive quality start and his 24th consecutive start allowing 3 earned runs or less (both tying club records). It was also his 11th start where he went at least seven innings, allowed two earned runs or less, and did not get a win. Although stuck at 8-8, his impressive lead in ERA (1.68), ERA+ (219), and FIP (2.02) have made him the front-runner for the award. He ended August with a 1.24 ERA and a 1.32 FIP in 43.2 innings while striking out at least nine in each of his six starts.
Wood (2018): 139.1 IP, 122 K, 35 BB, 13 HR, 3.42 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 1.17 WHIP
Wood is coming off his best start since Opening Day against the Texas Rangers. He pitched seven shutout innings in the victory and scattered four hits to close out August on a high note. While he has failed to emulate his impressive 2017 numbers, which earned him his first career All-Star nod, he has put together another solid season. Since June 16, he has made 12 starts and has posted a 2.43 ERA and 3.63 FIP in 70.1 innings. During that stretch, he defeated the Mets at Citi Field by pitching six innings and allowing two earned runs.
Tuesday, September 4: Jason Vargas vs. Rich Hill, 10:10 p.m. on SNY
Vargas (2018): 70.0 IP, 61 K, 25 BB, 14 HR, 6.56 ERA, 5.25 FIP, 1.57 WHIP
Vargas has lowered his ERA by over two full runs over his last four starts, which tells you both how bad he has been for most of the season and how good he has been lately. He went 5.1 innings and allowed one earned run on four hits while striking out six against the Chicago Cubs to earn his third consecutive victory. Since his disastrous and rain-shortened outing against the Cincinnati Reds at Citi Field on August 7, he has a 1.99 ERA and 3.12 FIP in 22.2 innings. While it’s too late for Vargas, who is signed through 2019, to save his season, he is at least looking to prove that he can be depended upon to shore up the back end of next year’s rotation.
Hill (2018): 102.2 IP, 113 K, 36 BB, 15 HR, 3.59 ERA, 4.14 FIP, 1.22 WHIP
Hill allowed three earned runs in five innings against the Diamondbacks in last start. The veteran lefty, who endured two separate disabled list trips and missed almost two months of action prior to July with left middle finger inflammation and a blister issue, has remained healthy since mid-June and performed well in that stretch. In his last 14 starts, he’s pitched 78 innings and posted a 2.77 ERA, a 3.42 FIP, and a 1.05 WHIP. The 38-year-old, who is in his 14th season, has only pitched 23 innings against the Mets and has a 7.83 ERA to show for it.
Wednesday, September 5: Zack Wheeler vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu, 7:35 p.m. on SNY
Wheeler (2018): 160.1 IP, 159 K, 50 BB, 12 HR, 3.37 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 1.19 WHIP
Wheeler got a taste of the deGrom treatment on Friday, going seven innings and allowing only one run while watching his offense falter. The defeat ended Wheeler’s winning streak, but it was hardly his fault as he reached nine strikeouts for the third time in August. He also did not issue a walk in a start for only the second time this year. He finished the month with a 1.13 ERA and a 2.08 FIP in 40 innings. Opposing batters managed a meager .188 average and .516 OPS against Wheeler.
Ryu (2018): 52.1 IP, 59 K, 12 BB, 6 HR, 2.24 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 0.96 WHIP
Ryu settled down after allowing a two-run home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the first frame against the Diamondbacks and ended up pitching seven strong innings while holding his opponent to just two hits over the final six frames. It was Ryu’s longest start since returning from the disabled list, a stint for a groin injury that kept him out from May 3 through August 15. In four starts since being activated, Ryu holds a 2.38 ERA and 3.11 FIP in 22.2 innings.
Prediction: The Mets will drop two out of three against the Dodgers.
How will the Mets fare in their three-game set against the Dodgers?
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Mets ride a Hollywood high into Los Angeles as they sweep the Dodgers!
Mets take the series and put a dent in the Dodgers’ playoff chances
Mets end their long losing streak to LA but drop the series
Mets are singing the Dodger blues after being swept