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Mets kick off nine-game road trip with series against the Rays

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The Mets enter play tonight on a seven-game winning streak.

New York Yankees v. Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Matt May/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The first place Mets (18-13) ride a seven-game winning streak in to The Sunshine State to face the Tampa Bay Rays (20-19) in a three-game series. The two clubs have played each other 27 times, with the Mets holding a 14-13 edge all-time, although they have lost six of their last nine against the Rays. Most recently, they met up last September at Citi Field, when the eventual AL Champion Rays took two out of three.

The Mets capped off a perfect homestand with a two-game sweep over the Baltimore Orioles. The Mets had no answers for John Means, fresh off throwing a no-hitter, on Tuesday, as New York’s bats were held in check for much of the game. Things were scoreless into the seventh, when Baltimore scratched out a run against Marcus Stroman and Aaron Loup. The two clubs traded runs in the eight, setting the stage for a dramatic ninth inning against Orioles closer César Valdez. After Kevin Pillar narrowly missed a game-tying home run, he eventually singled, and Jonathan Villar followed with a single. After the scuffling James McCann struck out, Dominic Smith, who had entered for the injured Albert Almora Jr., singled home the tying run, putting runners on the corners. That brought up Patrick Mazeika, the last man on New York’s bench, who eventually hit a grounder to first that brought home Villar with the winning run. It was Mazeika’s second walk-off fielder’s choice of the homestand, which further cemented his cult status.

Wednesday’s game featured Matt Harvey’s return to the Citi Field mound for the first time since being traded in May 2018. Harvey received a warm ovation from the home town crowd at every moment, including his first trip to the mound, both of his plate appearance, and when he was lifted from the game. Unfortunately for him, the Mets’ bats greeted him quite rudely, as they knocked him around to the tune of seven earned runs over 4.1 innings. Meanwhile, Taijuan Walker was terrific as he tossed seven innings of one-run ball, at one point retiring 11 in a row. The Mets capped off the sweep and the perfect homestand with a 7-1 victory.

The Mets continued to receive terrific starting pitching from their top three guys, who have carried them through their early offensive troubles. Jacob deGrom currently leads the National League with a 0.68 ERA, while Stroman’s 2.01 ERA places him sixth and Walker’s 2.20 ERA puts him at eighth. The club continues to wait for Noah Syndergaard (Tommy John Surgery) and Carlos Carrasco (torn hamstring) to return from their injuries, but in the meantime, they’ll continue to rely on their big three while piecing together the rest of the games between the inconsistent David Peterson and a combination of openers and middling starters.

Offensively, some of the team’s top players have begun turning it around, which has contributed to their winning streak. It was an eventful homestand for Francisco Lindor, whose argument with Jeff McNeil over the type of rodent they spotted overshadowed his game-tying home run on Friday. He enters play tonight on a six-game hitting streak, during which he’s slashing .400/.500/.600 with a 200 wRC+. Kevin Pillar continued his recent hot streak, making the most of his playing time while Brandon Nimmo recovers from his injury. In 11 games this month, Pillar leads the club with two home runs, a 160 wRC+, and a 0.5 fWAR while hitting .341/.357/.585.

Though he is still searching for his first home run of the month, Pete Alonso leads the club with ten runs scored in May while hitting .278/.447/.417 with a 152 wRC+ and a 0.3 fWAR. Dominic Smith came up clutch during the two-game set with four hits in five plate appearances while driving in three runs, which continued his strong month. In 11 games, Smith has posted a .333/.415/.417 slash line with a 135 wRC+ and a 0.2 fWAR as he tries to dig his way out of his early doldrums. Michael Conforto, who made a highlight reel catch on Wednesday, has continued to impress on both sides of the ball. For the month, he is hitting .282/.417/.385 with one homer, a 136 wRC+, and a 0.2 fWAR in 11 games and a team-high 48 plate appearances. The most impressive aspect of the team’s offense has been their discipline at the plate. Alonso currently leads the NL with 10 walks this month, while Conforto and Villar are both tied for second with nine walks apiece.

The Rays salvaged the final game of their series with the Yankees with a 9-1 win last night after dropping the first two. Following a five-game winning streak earlier in the month, Tampa Bay has lost four of its last six contests. Curiously, the Rays have trouble scoring at home, with their 3.10 runs-per-game at Tropicana Field ranking them second-to-last among all MLB clubs in that category at home. Conversely, they have scored 5.32 runs-per-game on the road, which is second-best in the majors this season.

Austin Meadows, who was an All Star in 2019 but struggled in 2020, leads the club with eight home runs while hitting .208/.318/.469 with a 126 wRC+ and a 0.5 fWAR while serving primarily as the team’s Designated Hitter. Left Fielder Randy Arozarena, who was Tampa Bay’s star player during last year’s postseason run, is slashing .260/.358/.397 with a 124 wRC+ and a 0.7 fWAR in 35 games. Third Baseman Joey Wendle has posted a .270/.325/.435 slash line with a 119 wRC+ and a 0.9 fWAR in 36 games. Brandon Lowe, who finished third in Rookie of the Year voting in 2019 and eighth in MVP voting last season, has not quite lived up to his past successes, slashing .198/.299/.381 with six home runs, a 100 wRC+, and a 0.6 fWAR in 35 games.

Friday, May 14: David Peterson vs. Tyler Glasnow, 7:10 p.m. on SNY

Peterson (2021): 26.0 IP, 32 K, 11 BB, 5 HR, 5.54 ERA, 4.63 FIP, 1.39 WHIP,-0.6 bWAR

Things got real ugly, real quick for Peterson in his last start against the Arizona Diamondbacks. In the shortest outing of his major league career, the left-hander only recorded five outs before the plug was mercifully pulled on his performance. After an uneventful first, he imploded in the second, loading the bases on two hits and a walk before completely losing the strike zone. He hit a batter to force in the first run and then walked the next two batters to put the Mets in an early 3-0 hole—a game they would eventually win thanks to Mazeika’s magic. At the very least, it was an aesthetically pleasing line: he gave up three earned runs on three hits with three walks and three strikeouts. Hopefully he got it out of his system and can get back on the winning track.

Glasnow (2021): 49.1 IP, 75 K, 19 BB, 6 HR, 2.37 ERA, 2.79 FIP, 0.89 WHIP, 1.3 bWAR

Glasnow has seemingly put it all together and is having one of the best seasons of his major league career so far. The 27-year-old is currently third in the American League with 75 strikeouts and his 39.5% K% trails only Gerrit Cole among AL starters, while his 4.6 H/9 is tops in the league. His last start wasn’t one of his better efforts this year, as he allowed three earned runs over 5.2 innings. He only gave up two hits, both of which left the park, and he walked four, although he did strike out 11 Oakland Athletics batters. His prior start wasn’t too different, as he walked four and allowed three earned runs—again, serving up two long balls—over six innings.

Saturday, May 15: TBD vs. Shane McClanahan, 7:10 p.m. on SNY

TBD

The Mets have not revealed their plans for Saturday’s game, which would have been Jacob deGrom’s turn in the rotation. They will likely go with an opener, though they can use Joey Lucchesi or Jordan Yamamoto to start, if they wish.

McClanahan (2021): 12.0 IP, 15 K, 4 BB, 1 HR, 3.75 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 1.25 WHIP, 0.1 bWAR

McClanahan burst onto the scene last postseason for the Rays, pitching in four games and allowing five runs (four earned) over 4.1 innings during the team’s World Series run, which included a scoreless inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3. The left-hander, who was selected 31st overall in the 2018 MLB Draft, recently got the call up, and has pitched well enough to warrant a spot on the club’s roster moving forward, with a fastball hitting the upper 90’s and a nasty slider. He has pitched four innings in each of his three starts, stretching out to 80 pitches his last time out against the A’s. In that game, he allowed three earned runs on four hits with two walks. He has struck out five in each of his three appearances so far. It will be interesting to see if Tampa Bay lets him go beyond 80 pitches this time out, or if they will continue to remain cautious with their young lefty.

Sunday, May 16: Marcus Stroman vs. TBD, 1:10 p.m. on SNY

Stroman (2021): 40.1 IP, 23 K, 9 BB, 3 HR, 2.01 ERA, 3.12 FIP, 1.02 WHIP, 0.7 bWAR

Stroman was fantastic in his last start, pitching into the seventh inning for the second time this year. He traded zeroes with Baltimore’s ace through the first six innings, and his defensive play in the first kept a run off the board while his pitching did that over the next five frames. He ran into trouble in the seventh, giving up back-to-back singles before a sacrifice bunt forced him to issue an intentional pass to load the bases. He was lifted from there, and the lone run against him came with Loup allowed a sacrifice fly, with Stroman looking annoyed that he wasn’t given a chance to get out of his mess. In total, he was charged with just the one run with four hits while striking out five in 6.1 innings.

TBD

The Rays have not yet named a starter for Sunday’s game against the Mets.

Prediction: The Mets drop the first two games before salvaging the series finale.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    The Mets make it ten straight with a series sweep!
    (43 votes)
  • 48%
    The winning streak is stopped, but the Met win two of three!
    (113 votes)
  • 19%
    The Mets hit a momentary skid as they drop two of three.
    (46 votes)
  • 2%
    The Mets falter as they’re swept in Tampa Bay.
    (7 votes)
  • 11%
    Pizza!
    (26 votes)
235 votes total Vote Now