The New York Mets (35-39) make their first of two trips to the Windy City in 2019 as they travel to Wrigley Field for four games with the first-place Chicago Cubs (40-33). The Mets have not fared well against the Cubs in recent years, as they dropped six of seven to them in 2018 and four of six in 2017. Last season, they were swept at Citi Field and lost the first two in Chicago before emerging victorious in their final game against the Cubs.
The Mets began a crucial 11-game road stretch with a series loss to the Atlanta Braves. Monday’s game was an out-and-out disaster, as the Mets were brutally battered in Atlanta. Zack Wheeler had another subpar outing as he allowed ten hits for a second consecutive game, and the bullpen was even worse. The combination of Jeurys Familia and Drew Gagnon allowed seven runs in the seventh and eighth to put the game well out of reach. Since then, Familia has landed on the Injured List while Gagnon has been optioned back to Triple-A Syracuse. The pair have been replaced by Daniel Zamora and Steven Nogosek, who made his major league debut and allowed two earned runs in Wednesday’s loss.
Tuesday’s game was a complete 180 as the Mets turned the tables on Atlanta with a laugher of their own. Jacob deGrom was in his vintage 2018 form and pitched into the ninth before tiring out following solo home runs from Freddie Freeman and Josh Donaldson. Thankfully, by that time, the team had built a lead so large that not even their bullpen could blow it. They put together ten runs, which included homers from the young core of Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, and Jeff McNeil, as they came away with a 10-2 win to even their series.
The Mets fell 7-2 on Wednesday to complete their series defeat. Steven Matz was again burned by the home run as he allowed a two-run shot to Freeman early on and a two-run homer to Donaldson in his final inning. With the loss, and the Washington Nationals sweeping a doubleheader from the Philadelphia Phillies, the Mets dropped into fourth place in the National League East.
After enduring an 0-for-4 night on Monday, McNeil rebounded with a strong final two games as he picked up his 44th and 45th career multi-hit games. By doing so in just 123 career games, he set a Mets record for the fastest to reach that mark. On the season, he ranks seventh among all National League hitters with 25 multi-hit games and is just four behind Nolan Arenado and Ketel Marte. McNeil is currently slashing .345/.367/.534 with 10 runs scored, five doubles, two home runs, and a 141 wRC+ in 14 games in June.
The Cubs temporarily jumped back into first place after besting their cross-town rival Chicago White Sox 7-3 on Wednesday, paired with a Milwaukee Brewers 8-7 loss to the San Diego Padres. The victory against the White Sox helped the Cubs earn a split of their brief two-game set after they fell on Tuesday night by a 3-1 score. The north side Chicago occupants now lead Milwaukee by a half-game in the National League Central standings at the start of play today. The Cubs own the third-best record in the National League, trailing the Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Cubs have one of the most dangerous offensive infields in the game and are led by third baseman Kris Bryant, who is hitting .281/.395/.539 with a team-leading 144 wRC+ and 2.8 fWAR in 69 games. The former National League Rookie of the Year (2015) and MVP (2016) has rebounded from a bit of a down year in 2018 and leads the team with 56 runs scored while ranking third with 15 home runs, trailing Javier Baez (17) and Anthony Rizzo (19). Rizzo, who turns 30 this August, is having a fine season in his own right, as he owns a .276/.387/.549 slash line with a team-best .272 ISO, a 143 wRC+, and a 2.0 fWAR. The 26-year-old Baez, meanwhile, is slashing .283/.321/.534 with a 118 wRC+ and a 2.6 fWAR.
As a team, the Cubs are collectively third in wRC+ (104) and fourth in OPS (.786) among NL clubs. Their rotation also owns the third-best ERA (3.27) and fifth-best FIP (4.00) in the NL, while their bullpen is lagging a little behind while coming in fifth in ERA (4.14) and eighth in FIP (4.42). Seeing that their bullpen was their weakest link, the Cubs did what any reasonable contending team would do and seized an obvious opportunity to improve themselves. Earlier this month, the club inked free agent closer Craig Kimbrel to a three-year contract, and once he is ready to pitch he will assume the club’s closer role. In his career, Kimbrel owns a 1.91 ERA and a 1.96 FIP with 868 strikeouts and 333 saves in 532.2 innings for the Braves, Padres, and the Boston Red Sox.
Thursday, June 20: Walker Lockett vs. Tyler Chatwood, 8:05 p.m. on SNY
Lockett (Triple-A 2019): 24.2 IP, 9 K, 4 BB, 3 HR, 3.28 ERA, 5.06 FIP, 1.22 WHIP
The Mets announced on Wednesday that Lockett will start the series opener in place of Noah Syndergaard, who landed on the IL after exiting in the seventh inning on June 15. The Mets acquired Lockett from the Cleveland Indians as part of the Kevin Plawecki deal over the offseason. He hasn’t pitched for the club yet, although he appeared for the team during spring training and posted a 6.75 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP in 6.2 innings. The 25-year-old made his major league debut for the Padres in 2018 and posted a 9.60 ERA and a 7.03 FIP in 15 innings, with three starts and one relief outing.
Chatwood (2019): 35.0 IP, 29 K, 21 BB, 5 HR, 3.60 ERA, 5.17 FIP, 1.46 WHIP
Chatwood will pitch in place of Kyle Hendricks, who will not make the start on Thursday after landing on the Injured List with a shoulder injury. Chatwood has mostly been relegated to the bullpen and has made 16 relief appearances, although he did make one spot start earlier in the season against the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 21. In that game, Chatwood went six scoreless innings and scattered two hits while striking out three and walking two.
Friday, June 21: Jason Vargas vs. Yu Darvish, 2:20 p.m. on SNY
Vargas (2019): 55.1 IP, 44 K, 24 BB, 6 HR, 3.74 ERA, 4.35 FIP, 1.34 WHIP
Vargas exited his last start with a left calf cramp which he suffered during his fourth inning at-bat, but it will not keep him from making his Friday start. Before leaving, Vargas had allowed three runs (two earned) over four innings pitched. The only hit he gave up on the afternoon was a long first inning home run off the bat of Paul Goldschmidt, although he did allow three walks while striking out four. After retiring the side in order in the second and third, he walked the first two batters of the fourth before an error loaded the bases. Vargas was able to induce a double-play, but the tying run scored in the process. Despite the outcome, it wasn’t a bad day at the office for Vargas all-around, especially since the injury was not serious.
Darvish (2019): 79.1 IP, 91 K, 45 BB, 14 HR, 4.65 ERA, 5.07 FIP, 1.39 WHIP
Darvish has not been anything even remotely close to the pitcher the Cubs thought they were getting when they signed him to a six-year, $126 million deal prior to 2018. He made only eight starts last year while putting up a 4.95 ERA and 4.86 FIP. This season, he’s managed to stay on the field, but he’s on pace to set a career-high in walks. He currently leads the league with 45 walks and owns the worst BB/9 (5.11) among all qualified National League starting pitchers to go along with the worst HR/9 (1.59). He is coming off his best start of the year, however, as he held the Dodgers to one run on two hits over seven innings while striking out 10 on June 15.
Saturday, June 22: Zack Wheeler vs. Jose Quintana, 2:20 p.m. on WPIX
Wheeler (2019): 94.2 IP, 103 K, 28 BB, 14 HR, 4.94 ERA, 3.84 FIP, 1.33 WHIP
Wheeler gave up ten hits for the second consecutive start and the third time this season as he absorbed his fifth loss of the year. He was behind from the jump after allowing a home run to the first batter he faced, and was charged with five runs (four earned) with four strikeouts and two walks over six innings. Much like his start against the New York Yankees, the defense did him no favors, but he also didn’t do himself any favors in this one. Wheeler kept the Braves off the scoreboard in innings two through four, but he was always in trouble, with resulted in a high pitch count early on. After his team came back to tie the game, he gave the lead right back in the fifth, and this time the Braves wouldn’t relinquish. Wheeler has now allowed the most earned runs among National League starting pitcher.
Quintana (2019): 83.2 IP, 72 K, 27 BB, 9 HR, 3.87 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 1.34 WHIP
Quintana is coming off a start that saw him give up two earned runs on six hits over five innings while picking up a no-decision against the Dodgers. Quintana’s numbers are mostly solid, but it’s been an up-and-down year for the left-hander. His best stretch of 2019 came from April 11 through May 5. During those five starts, he posted a 1.93 ERA and a 2.66 FIP with opponents managing a .563 OPS against him. The Cubs won each of those five games as his record improved to 4-1. Since then, the Cubs have lost seven of his next eight starts while his record has fallen to 4-6. In that span, the 30-year-old Quintana is pitching to a 4.30 ERA and a 3.99 FIP, while his strikeout rate has dropped from 22.7% to 16.5% and his walk rate has gone from 3.9% to 8.5%. Quintana hasn’t pitched much against the Mets, but he’s won two of his three starts against them with a 1.35 ERA in 20 innings.
Sunday, June 23: Jacob deGrom vs. Cole Hamels, 2:20 p.m. on WPIX
deGrom (2019): 91.0 IP, 112 K, 20 BB, 12 HR, 3.26 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 1.08 WHIP
The final line from deGrom’s last night doesn’t quite speak to just how good the ace pitched. He entered the ninth inning with a chance at a complete-game shutout but tired out as he approached 110-plus pitches and surrendered back-to-back home runs to lose both the shutout and the chance and finishing things off. Despite that, he went a season-high 8.1 innings while holding the Braves to two earned runs on five hits. He struck out 10 batters for the third time this season and reached seventh on the team’s all-time strikeout list after surpassing Al Leiter. He now has his sites set on Ron Darling and David Cone, who come in at sixth and fifth, respectively, on that list. deGrom threw five pitches that climbed over 99 miles-per-hour, with one that touched 100 on the gun. The right-hander celebrated his 31st birthday yesterday.
Hamels (2019): 91.2 IP, 91 K, 32 BB, 7 HR, 2.85 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 1.18 WHIP
Hamels has been the Cubs’ best starter—not to mention the unexpected ace of my Fantasy Baseball team—and has thrived with the Cubs since arriving in a trade last season. He hit a small rough patch at the end of May, as he pitched four innings in each of his last two starts in the month while allowing a combined nine runs in those two starts. In four June outings, Hamels has pitched 29 innings and has been charged with two runs (one earned) on 17 hits with 31 strikeouts and six walks. In the process, he’s lowered his ERA for the season from 4.02 on May 27 to 2.85 today. Hamels has a wealth of experience pitching against the Mets from his days on the Phillies and owns a 3.89 ERA in 33 starts against them.
Prediction: The road trip from hell continues with the Mets dropping three out of four to the Cubs.
How will the Mets fare in their four game series against the Cubs?
This poll is closed
The Mets hunt the Cubs down in a four-game sweep!
The Mets pull off a huge series win by taking three in Wrigley.
The Mets earn a split with first-place Chicago.
The Mets escape with one victory but another series loss.
The Mets are deep-sixed in Chicago in a four-game sweep.
(New York-style) Pizza!