The New York Mets (10-8) embark on the final leg of their ten-game road trip as they take on the St. Louis Cardinals (10-8) for three games at Busch Stadium. So far, the Mets have split a four-game set with the Atlanta Braves and have dropped two out of three against the Philadelphia Phillies on this trip. The Mets and Cardinals split the season series in 2018, with each club claiming two out of three on their home turf.
The Mets limp into play tonight after taking game one against the Phillies in a back-and-forth, extra innings affair before being blown out in the second game and falling in a nail biter in the matinee finale on Wednesday. On Monday, New York won in 11 innings after Michael Conforto scorched a ground ball to first that was misplayed by Rhys Hoskins and resulted in the winning running crossing the plate. The Mets won 7-6 despite a shaky outing by Noah Syndergaard and a poor performance by Jeurys Familia out of the bullpen.
On Tuesday, Steven Matz was pounded in the worst outing of his career, as he allowed eight runs while facing eight batters and recording zero outs as the team lost 14-3. On Wednesday, the bats remained relatively quiet against Jake Arrieta as they fell 3-2. The Mets did their best to come back against Philadelphia’s bullpen and loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth. Keon Broxton strode to the plate with the chance to play hero, but whiffed on a 3-2 fastball down the middle to derail the comeback attempt.
Michael Conforto hit two home runs in the team’s two losses and now has five on the season. Conforto has been the club’s most consistent hitter so far, as he is hitting .324/.422/.634 with a .310 ISO, a 175 wRC+, and a 1.0 fWAR while starting every game for the club. Jeff McNeil also remains one of the most productive bats in the lineup, as he picked up seven hits in 12 at-bats during the series, including two out of the leadoff spot on Wednesday. McNeil owns a .424/.485/.542 slash line with a 178 wRC+ in 66 plate appearances in 2019.
The Mets enter this upcoming series with some injury concerns that are worth keeping an eye on. Brandon Nimmo sat out Wednesday’s game after experiencing a stiff neck and exiting Tuesday night’s game in the bottom of the first. On Wednesday, Wilson Ramos came up in the ninth inning to pinch hit for Travis d’Arnaud and was promptly plunked right below his elbow. He was visibly shaken up but remained in the game, as the club had no catchers left on their bench to replace him. It appears that he should be good to go and the team has not provided any additional updates on his status. Jacob deGrom is suffering from strep throat and has already had his start pushed back to Saturday afternoon, with Jason Vargas pitching on regular rest on Friday night.
The Cardinals enter the series with an identical record to the Mets after winning on Wednesday to salvage the final game of their three-game set with the Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers. Prior to that, they split a pair with the Cincinnati Reds in a series played in Mexico, and swept a four-game home series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Marcell Ozuna has gotten off to a blistering start in 2019, as he currently owns a .290/.343/.726 slash line with eight home runs, a .435 ISO, a 171 wRC+, and a 0.7 fWAR in 16 games. Though not talked about nearly as much as Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich, Ozuna has been a good get for the Cardinals after they acquired him prior to the 2018 season in a trade with the Miami Marlins. He enters Friday’s game having hit home runs in four consecutive games.
While Ozuna was their big trade acquisition prior to 2018, Paul Goldschmidt was their big splash last offseason. The Cardinals picked up Goldschmidt in a deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks to serve as their first baseman, which resulted in Matt Carpenter shifting across the diamond to play third base. So far, Goldschmidt has been everything the Cardinals could’ve hoped for, as he’s hitting .239/.349/.563 with a .324 ISO, a 134 wRC+, and a 0.4 fWAR. His seven home runs rank second on the team behind Ozuna.
The offense is a big part of the reason why the Cardinals are above .500, as they rank in the top five in the National League in wRC+ (.107), ISO (.209), and home runs (30). Their starting pitching, on the other hand, has held them back so far. Their rotation currently owns the fourth-worst ERA (5.16) and second-worst FIP (5.69) in the National League.
Friday, April 19: Jason Vargas vs. Adam Wainwright, 8:15 p.m. on SNY
Vargas (2019): 6.1 IP, 3 K, 4 BB, 2 HR, 14.21 ERA, 8.19 FIP, 2.84 WHIP
Vargas will, inexplicably, take the mound again as a starter for the Mets, which perhaps speaks more to the team’s complete lack of options behind him rather than his performance earning him yet another opportunity. In his last start, the 14-year veteran lasted just one-third of an inning and was charged with four earned runs on two hits and three walks against the Braves. If he turn in a rough performance against the Cardinals, it’s hard to imagine that the club will be left with any other choice but to remove Vargas from the starting rotation. If there’s perhaps one positive for Vargas going into this start, it’s that the Cardinals have struggled so far against left-handed pitchers. To date, St. Louis has posted a 73 wRC+ with a .658 OPS in 126 plate appearances against lefties, which ranks them towards the bottom of the league.
Wainwright (2019): 16.0 IP, 16 K, 6 BB, 2 HR, 3.94 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 1.13 WHIP
Wainwright is the only Cardinals starter with a sub-four ERA entering this series. The 14-year veteran has bounced back from a rough first start against the Pittsburgh Pirates (four innings, four hits, four earned runs, four walks) to allow one earned run in six innings against the San Diego Padres and two earned runs in six innings against the Reds his last time on the mound. In that start, he allowed three hits and walked two while striking out four, but he gave up his first two home runs of the season and took the loss despite the respectable final line. The 37-year-old is coming off an injury-plagued 2018 season that saw him make just eight starts, so staying healthy will be his central focus in 2019.
Saturday, April 20: Jacob deGrom vs. Miles Mikolas, 2:15 p.m. on WPIX
deGrom (2019): 22.0 IP, 36 K, 7 BB, 5 HR, 3.68 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 1.27 WHIP
deGrom endured his second straight non-quality start after seeing his streak snapped on April 9. It was also the second straight start that began with a 30-minute rain delay and the second straight start in which he took the loss as he saw his record fall to 2-2. He was better than he was against the Minnesota Twins and did gut it out through five innings, but he allowed three earned runs on five hits and four walks. He struggled with his command and needed 114 pitches to navigate his five innings, although he did strike out nine batters. He has now given up five home runs in four starts after allowing ten all of last year. Following the start, the Mets insisted that deGrom is not tipping his pitches. It’s still far too early to panic about the reigning Cy Young Award winner, but this start will go a long way towards easing some people’s minds. deGrom was originally scheduled to go on Friday, but he has been battling strep throat and was given an extra day to recover.
Mikolas (2019): 21.0 IP, 11 K, 5 BB, 5 HR, 6.00 ERA, 6.33 FIP, 1.38 WHIP
Fresh off a four-year, $68 million contract extension right before the start of the season, Mikolas has struggled to reward his club out of the gate. The five-year veteran, who finished sixth in the National League Cy Young award voting in a breakout season, has gotten off to a bad start as he’s been charged with 14 earned runs over 21 innings. In his last outing against the Reds, he gave up four runs (three earned) on seven hits while striking out three in a game that was played in Monterrey, Mexico. He threw just 61 pitches and was lifted early for a pinch hitter in a game that the Cardinals would go on to win. This will be the his first career start against the Mets, although he did shut them out in one inning out of the bullpen in his 2012 rookie campaign.
Sunday, April 21: Noah Syndergaard vs. Dakota Hudson, 2:15 p.m. on WPIX
Syndergaard (2019): 24.0 IP, 29 K, 5 BB, 3 HR, 5.63 ERA, 3.10 FIP, 1.13 WHIP
Syndergaard struggled with the elements and with his command in an uncomfortable outing against the Phillies last Monday. He lasted five innings and was tagged for five earned runs on nine hits. It was the first time in 31 starts that Thor gave up five runs in a game, which was the longest active streak in the majors. He walked three while also striking out a season-high nine batters as he threw 102 pitches (69 for strikes). It’s hard to gauge how much of this performance was affected by the intense winds in Philadelphia, but it was discouraging to see blow a three-run lead and a two-run lead after the offense jumped all over Aaron Nola. He has now given up at least four earned runs in three of his four appearances, but his velocity has still been electric. It will come down to staying healthy, locating his pitches, and better pitch selection as Syndergaard looks to turn the corner and build on his positive signs from early in the season.
Hudson (2019): 13.1 IP, 13 K, 10 BB, 5 HR, 6.08 ERA, 8.32 FIP, 2.33 WHIP
Hudson, whom the Cardinals drafted in the first round (34th overall) in the 2016 MLB Draft, is off to a rocky start in his first go-around as a member of the club’s rotation. Last year, he made 26 appearances out of the bullpen after being promoted on July 27 and pitched to a 2.63 ERA, 3.86 FIP, and 1.35 WHIP in 27.1 innings, but he hasn’t been able to find the same level of success after being named the team’s fifth starter going into the season. In his last outing against the Brewers on April 15, Hudson was hit hard and charged with six earned runs on eight hits in just 3.2 innings.
Prediction: The Mets will drop the opener but take the final two games to end their road trip on a high note.
How will the Mets fare in their three game series against the Cardinals?
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The Mets dominate the Cardinals in a three-game sweep
The Mets win two out of three to salvage their road trip
The Mets sneak away with one win but drop their second straight series
The Mets are left feeling the blues as they’re swept in St. Louis