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Mets look to make the Pirates walk the plank in three-game series

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The Mets are coming off a series win against the Padres, while the Pirates were swept by the Cardinals.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets (47-55) will close off their homestand against the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates (46-56), who invade Citi Field for three games this weekend. The Mets dropped four out of six to the Pirates in 2018 after splitting six games with them in 2017.

The Mets returned home from a nine-game road trip and took two out of three against the San Diego Padres. Robinson Cano had an historic Tuesday night performance, connecting on home runs in the fourth, six, and seventh innings to provide his team with all the offense they would need. The Mets also benefited from a tremendous Jason Vargas performance, as the 36-year-old left-hander one-hit San Diego while walking four and striking out eight over six innings. Although the bullpen tripped up a bit in the later innings and helped the Padres creep closer, the Mets were able to hold on for a 5-2 victory.

Wednesday night was a different story entirely as the Mets dropped a 7-2 decision. Noah Syndergaard was mostly fine, but he topped Vargas’ walk count by issuing five free passes while striking out eight and allowing eight hits. The offense squandered a number of chances, including two bases loaded opportunities that resulted in zero runs. The killer was a seventh inning at-bat by Michael Conforto, who failed to come through with the bases loaded and the team was only down by two runs. The bullpen proceeded to give up two runs in the eighth and one in the ninth to put the game out of reach.

Thursday afternoon’s series finale was all about Jacob deGrom, who improved his already sparking ERA in day games—in 52 day starts, deGrom owns a scintillating 1.86 ERA with 383 strikeouts in 333 innings—after tossing seven shutout innings for a second consecutive start. In the process, he lowered his ERA in 2019 to below three for the first time since April 3. The offense actually showed up to support their ace, albeit for one innings. For the first time in any deGrom start, the Mets scored four runs in the first inning, and he made it stand up. Despite the win, the team held its collective breath in the ninth when Edwin Diaz took a 100 mph line drive off his foot and had to exit the game. Luis Avilan entered to complete the victory.

With the trade deadline quickly approaching, this could be the final home series for several Mets players. With the team needing a minor miracle to make any sort of playoff push, they are expected to sell some pieces in an effort to replenish their depleted farm system—or, more honestly, save on said players’ salaries. One player who could be on the move is third baseman and Tom’s River native Todd Frazier. Despite going 2-for-3 and reaching base four times in Thursday’s game, Frazier has been mired in a slump. In his last 20 games, Frazier is hitting .183/.239/.336 with four home runs and a six wRC+ in 82 at-bats. In a little over a year-and-a-half in New York, the third baseman is slashing .226/.313/.408 with a 97 wRC+. Moving Frazier would allow the club to slot Jeff McNeil back at third base if they felt inclined, while giving J.D. Davis more of a look in the outfield.

Barring any unforseen developments, Frazier is likely the only position player that the team will part with. The bigger changes are expected to come with the pitchers, as recent reports seem to at least indicate that the club is open to listening to offers for Syndergaard and Diaz. It is much more likely that the club will entertain offers for soon-to-be free agents Zack Wheeler and Jason Vargas, but parting with their younger talent will hypothetically net a larger return. Wheeler and Vargas will each make what is possibly their last starts in a Mets uniform this weekend.

The Pirates enter this series on a five-game losing skid after walking the plank in a four-game home series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Pittsburgh has lost eight of their last ten and have slipped into the cellar in the National League Central.

The team’s struggles have coincided with the struggles of All Star first baseman Josh Bell. On the season, he leads the team in wRC+ (145), OPS (.945), and fWAR (2.4) while hitting .287/.369/.606 with 27 home runs. However, since June 1 he is hitting just .213/.323/.475 with a 101 wRC+ and nine home runs. Part of the reason for his more pedestrian numbers is the lack of offensive talent around him in the lineup, which allows opposing clubs to pitch around him. While he has struggled since June, Starling Marte has turned it on. In that same stretch, Marte is slashing .317/.352/.589 with 11 home runs and a 140 wRC+ in 44 games.

Friday, July 26: Dario Agrazal vs. Zack Wheeler, 7:10 p.m. on SNY

Agrazal (2019): 28.0 IP, 12 K, 10 BB, 3 HR, 2.25 ERA, 5.16 FIP, 1.21 WHIP

After signing with the Pirates as an international free agent in 2012, Agrazal finally broke through seven years later and made his against the Miami Marlins on June 15. He put together a decent showing, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits over four innings. Since then, he has gone exactly six innings in each of his next four starts while allowing a total of five earned runs in those appearances. In his last start, he went six innings and allowed one earned run on three hits with five strikeouts. While the 24-year-old right-hander sports a stellar 2.25 ERA, he owns a much less palatable 5.16 FIP thanks to his ten walks and three home runs in the early stages of his career.

Wheeler (2019): 82.2 IP, 68 K, 32 BB, 13 HR, 4.25 ERA, 4.82 FIP, 1.28 WHIP

This will almost definitely be Wheeler’s last start in a Mets uniform, barring the team receiving no worthwhile offers at the deadline and making the perplexing decision to hold on to the soon-to-be free agent hurler. The 29-year-old will make his 115th start in the orange and blue, and enters with a career 3.88 ERA, 3.77 FIP, and 1.30 WHIP in 673 innings with the team since debuting in 2013. After coming off a career-year in 2018, he’s been back to the same maddeningly inconsistent starter that the club has dealt with since his first season, but his highs remain extremely encouraging and could entice another club to offer the team something solid in return. Wheeler has not pitched since July 7 after experiencing shoulder fatigue. In his last outing, he went five innings and gave up six earned runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts while taking the loss against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Saturday, July 27: Trevor Williams vs. Steven Matz, 7:10 p.m. on WPIX

Williams (2019): 81.2 IP, 68 K, 18 BB, 13 HR, 4.96 ERA, 4.48 FIP, 1.36 WHIP

After posting career-bests in ERA (3.11), FIP (3.86), and WHIP (1.18) in 2018, Williams has regressed to the mean this season with a 4.96 ERA, a 4.48 FIP, and a 1.36 WHIP in 14 starts. He began 2019 with six consecutive quality starts as he put up a 2.59 ERA in 31.2 innings before giving up nine earned runs over his next two starts. He missed about a month after straining his right side and had four dreadful starts in a row, giving up a combined 24 earned runs over his next 22.2 innings. He finally leveled off a bit in his last outing against the Cardinals, where he was charged with two runs (one earned) on five hits with a season-high seven strikeouts over five innings.

Matz (2019): 91.0 IP, 86 K, 31 BB, 19 HR, 4.75 ERA, 5.21 FIP, 1.46 WHIP

In his last start, Matz completed six innings for the first time since June 14, and generally looked good on the mound. He held his opponent scoreless in the first inning for a second consecutive start after being plagued by first inning issues all season long. In the end, Matz allowed two earned runs on six hits with six strikeouts over six innings and was efficient, needing just 88 pitches to complete his outing. Unlike his two teammates who are taking the hill this weekend, the Long Island left-hander is not likely to be dealt before Wednesday’s trade deadline.

Sunday, July 28: Chris Archer vs. Jason Vargas, 1:10 p.m. on WPIX

Archer (2019): 96.2 IP, 112 K, 47 BB, 24 HR, 5.40 ERA, 5.66 FIP, 1.42 WHIP

Once the ace of the Tampa Bay Rays’ staff, Archer has been far from the pitcher the Pirates expected when they parted with top prospects Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow to get him. After putting up a 3.69 ERA, a 3.48 FIP, and 1.23 WHIP in seven seasons with the Rays, Archer has pitched to a 5.01 ERA, a 5.08 FIP, and a 1.40 WHIP in parts of two seasons with Pittsburgh. This year, he’s trending towards career highs in each of those categories while leading the National League by allowing 24 home runs in his 18 starts. His 2.23 HR/9 current leads all starting pitchers who’ve amassed at least 90 innings. In his last appearance against the Cardinals on Tuesday, Archer allowed four earned runs on seven hits with six strikeouts over six innings as he was handed his seventh loss of the season.

Vargas (2019): 88.2 IP, 76 K, 36 BB, 13 HR, 3.96 ERA, 4.67 FIP, 1.25 WHIP

What can Vargas possibly do for an encore? With Sunday potentially representing his last start for the Mets, the veteran left-hander will be hard-pressed to top his performance on Tuesday night against the Padres. In that appearance, he allowed one lone hit over six shutout innings. The lone blemish against his record was a season-high four walks, but he also struck out eight for just the third time all year and managed to keep those walks from turning into runs. His numbers across the board have been respectable this year, and completely unexpected given the terrible year he put together for the Mets in 2018.

Prediction: The Mets take two out of three from the Pirates this weekend.

Poll

How will the Mets fare in their three game series against the Pirates?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    The Mets plunder the Pirates in a three-game sweep!
    (23 votes)
  • 35%
    Arr! It’s another series win as the Mets take two from Pittsburgh.
    (23 votes)
  • 15%
    Ye better believe the Mets are mad after losing two of three.
    (10 votes)
  • 7%
    The Mets walk the plank and are sent to Davy Jones’ locker in a three-game sweep.
    (5 votes)
  • 6%
    Pizza!
    (4 votes)
65 votes total Vote Now