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The Mets try to make up ground in Kansas City

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After going 3-3 in their last two series, the Mets head to Kansas City to play the struggling Royals.

New York Mets v Atlanta Braves Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

After going winning an improbable 15 out of their previous 16 games, the Mets understandably cooled off a bit this week. They won two out of three games against the Nationals, who currently occupy the first Wild Card spot with a 3.5 game lead over the Mets, and lost two out of three to the Braves, who currently have a nine-game lead over the Mets in the division. After going 3-3 against playoff contending teams in their last six games, the Mets hope to start another run of victories against the fourth-place Kansas City Royals this weekend in Kansas City.

If the Mets are going to continue their surge towards a Wild Card spot, they are going to need to continue to beat up on bad teams like they did to climb back into the Wild Card race. The Royals definitely qualify as one of these teams the Mets need to beat up on, as they are are ahead of only the historically bad Detroit Tigers in the American League Central. The Royals enter the series with a 43-78 record that is the third-worst in Major League Baseball and have been outscored by opponents by 107 runs on the season.

It’s relatively easy to understand why this Royals team has struggled this year. Their offense has posted just 7.5 fWAR, which ranks 25th in baseball and is less than the total put up by the duo of Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso by themselves on the season. And the Royals’ 84 wRC+ is the fourth lowest in the majors. The Royals rank in the bottom third of the league in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, as well.

While their offense has generally struggled, the Royals have gotten very good seasons out of a few contributors, with Hunter Dozier, Whit Merrifield, Jorge Soler, and Adalberto Mondesi all having put up 2.0 fWAR or more on the season with a little over a month left to play. Unfortunately for the Royals, the gains made by their core of above-average regulars have been almost entirely offset by all of the playing time they’ve given to well below-replacement level players. Things haven’t gone much better for the Royals’ pitching staff, which currently ranks twenty-fourth in the league in fWAR, twenty-third in the league with a 4.98 ERA, and twenty-eighth in the league with a 4.80 FIP.

The Mets should be heavily favored on both sides of the ball, as they’ve excelled on both sides of the ball so far in the second half. The Mets offense has ranked twelfth in the league with 5.0 fWAR and eighth in the league with a 108 wRC+, and their pitching staff has dominated in the second half so far, ranking third in the league with 5.6 fWAR, second with a 3.24 ERA, and second with a 3.84 FIP.

A series against one of the weaker teams in Major League Baseball has come at the perfect time for the Mets, who might have lost a bit of momentum after two straight series against two of the better teams in the National League. The Mets also lost Jeff McNeil, arguably the team’s best hitter, to the 10-day injured list in Atlanta, and while they’re optimistic McNeil will be ready to return to action shortly, it is fortunate for them that they are playing a weaker opponent for at least a few of the games they are without him. If the Mets are going to continue their resurgent second half and make a run at the wild card, they are going to have to continue to put away any weaker opponents that they play, regardless of which players are available.

Friday, August 16: Noah Syndergaard vs. Mike Montgomery, 8:15 PM EDT

Syndergaard (2019): 148.0 IP, 145 K, 40 BB, 3.89 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 1.21 WHIP
The 2019 season has been a tale of two halves for Noah Syndergaard, who has put his early season struggles behind him in a dominant second half. Syndergaard has been one of the best pitchers in the game in the second half, posting a 1.91 ERA and 2.23 FIP with 44 strikeouts against 10 walks, in 42.1 innings pitched since the All-Star break. He’s gone seven or more innings in each of his last seven starts, and he’s held opponents to just 0.21 home runs per nine innings during that time frame.

Montgomery (2019): 50.1 IP, 42 K, 16 BB, 5.19 ERA, 5.09 FIP, 1.59 WHIP
While 2019 has been a struggle for Montgomery, he’s been better since being traded to the Royals from the Cubs in July. Montgomery has posted a 4.63 ERA and 3.78 FIP in five starts since joining the Royals, has seen his strikeouts per nine innings rate improve by three full strikeouts since switching teams.

Saturday, August 17: Jacob deGrom vs. Jakob Junis, 7:15 PM EDT

deGrom (2019): 148.0 IP, 189 K, 36 BB, 2.68 ERA, 2.82 FIP, 1.07 WHIP
deGrom has similarly been one of the best pitchers in baseball during the second half, and has pitched his way back into Cy Young consideration, after injuries forced Max Scherzer and Hyun-Jin Ryu to miss time. deGrom has posted a microscopic 0.95 ERA and 1.83 FIP in 38 innings pitched across six starts in the second half. He’s also excelled at keeping the ball in the ballpark since the All-Star Game, holding opponents to just 0.24 home runs per nine innings in that span.

Junis (2019): 144.1 IP, 136 K, 48 BB, 4.80 ERA, 4.76 FIP, 1.39 WHIP
Junis hasn’t always been spectacular for the Royals recently, but has given them six or more innings in seven straight starts. He’s posted a 3.20 ERA and 4.23 FIP in that time span, despite allowing 1.40 home runs per nine innings in 45 innings. Junis leans very heavily on his slider, which he’s thrown 45.37% of the time this season, and pairs it primarily with a four-seam fastball that he throws 32.13% of the time. He also mixes in a sinker and change-up, which he throws 16.97% and 5.53% of the time respectively.

Thursday, August 15: Zach Wheeler vs. Glenn Sparkman, 2:15 PM EDT

Wheeler (2019): 144.1 IP, 151 K, 37 BB, 4.36 ERA, 3.54 FIP, 1.27 WHIP
While Wheeler has also pitched generally pretty well in the second half, posting a 2.84 ERA and 2.95 FIP in 25.1 innings pitched since the break, he is coming off of one of his worst starts of the season on Tuesday in Atlanta. Wheeler went just 5.0 innings, and allowed five earned runs on twelve hits and two walks, and struck out just two Braves hitters. Prior to Tuesday evening’s game, Wheeler had gone seven or more innings in back to back starts against the Marlins and White Sox, which might bode well for him against a comparably weak Royals’ offense.

Sparkman (2019): 99.0 IP, 58 K, 28 BB, 5.45 ERA, 5.78 FIP, 1.44 WHIP
Sparkman has had a very rough season for the Royals so far, posting an ERA close to 5.50 and a FIP north of 5.75. He’s allowed 1.91 home runs per nine innings this season, which is tenth worst home run rate in baseball among pitchers who have thrown at least 90 innings. He also doesn’t really strike many hitters out, averaging just 5.27 strikeouts per nine innings.

Prediction: Mets win two out of three and pick up a game on the second Wild Card spot.

Poll

How will the Mets fare in their series in Kansas City?

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    Sweep
    (169 votes)
  • 25%
    Win 2 out of 3
    (64 votes)
  • 1%
    Win 1 out of 3
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    Get swept
    (4 votes)
  • 4%
    pizza
    (12 votes)
252 votes total Vote Now