The first-place New York Mets (47-40) begin their second half with their eyes set on an NL East title as they face off against the Pittsburgh Pirates (34-56). These two clubs literally just played each other right before the All Star break and split four at Citi Field.
The series began with a familiar sight: a rainout. With Thursday’s game washed away, the Mets kicked off with an offensive explosion on Friday night in a 13-4 win. If you can believe it, the game was knotted up at two apiece heading into the sixth, when the Mets put together a ten-run frame, highlighted by a three-run homer from Pete Alonso and a grand slam—the first of the season for New York—from Francisco Lindor. Jonathan Villar homered from both sides of the plate in the victory.
The Mets, as they have so often in the first half, split a doubleheader on Saturday, although they decided to change things up by dropping the first game and winning the nightcap. The afternoon started with Brandon Nimmo making a remarkable catch in center field to rob Bryan Reynolds of a home run, and the Mets grabbed a lead in the bottom half of the frame. After John Nogowski doubled home two in the fourth, Villar homered for the third time in two games in the bottom of the frame to tie up the score. In the next inning, Marcus Stroman served up a home run to pitcher Tyler Anderson with two outs, and things went downhill from there as New York fell 6-2.
The Mets rebounded for a 4-2 win in the second game. Tylor Megill got the nod and struggled, but only allowed one run through 3.2 innings before being lifted. Jeff McNeil doubled home two in the first, and the Mets never trailed from there. Alonso hit a laser beam of a homer that clocked in at 113 mph off the bat to make it a 3-1 game, though a Jacob Stallings homer off in the sixth made it a one-run game again. Billy McKinney singled home an insurance run in the sixth, and Edwin Díaz promptly shut the door on Pittsburgh.
The Mets endured a dreadful 6-5 loss on Sunday to close out the first half. Things looked good early on, as the Mets scored five in the first on a two-run Lindor homer and a three-run shot off the bat of Michael Conforto against Chase De Jong. Aaron Loup opened and was superb over two innings, and Eickhoff held the Pirates off the board in the third and fourth. Eickhoff, however, ran into trouble in the fifth and gave up back-to-back homers to Rodolfo Castro and Michael Pérez. After Jeurys Familia finished off that inning, he gave up a two-run homer to Castro in the sixth to make it a one-run ballgame. Miguel Castro was great in the seventh but less-so in the eighth, and Edwin Díaz was called upon for the five-out save. After escaping a jam in the eighth, he got himself into trouble in the ninth with a one-out double. After recording another out and finding himself close to escaping, he gave up three straight hits to plate two Pittsburgh runs. The Mets were unable to recover in the ninth and the rest is history.
At the break, the Mets find themselves squarely in the middle of the National League with a 93 wRC+, while their .683 OPS and their 88 home runs are both 11th in the NL. Despite their offensive outburst on Friday, they remain 29th in baseball with 3.76 runs-per-game, ahead of only Pittsburgh. Their pitching, overall, has continued to carry them. Their starters have put together a 2.98 ERA overall in the first half, which is second only to the Los Angeles Dodgers, while their 3.36 FIP is tops in the league. After their rough bullpen outing on Sunday, their relievers finished the first half with a 4.06 ERA and a 4.15 FIP.
Among players with at least 100 plate appearances, Nimmo leads the club at the break with a 140 wRC+ and an .841 OPS while slashing .317/.408/.433 with a 1.2 fWAR in 32 games. Alonso leads the ballclub with 17 home runs while hitting .250/.328/.478 with a 121 wRC+ and a 0.7 fWAR in 78 games. Lindor leads the club with 49 runs scored to go along with a .227/.326/.377 slash line, 11 home runs, a 99 wRC+, and a team-best 1.8 fWAR in 87 games. Jonathan Villar has led the way for the bench mob, hitting .235/.319/.426 with nine homers, a 107 wRC+, and a 1.0 fWAR in 68 games. With J.D. Davis set to return immediately after the break, it will be interesting to see how Luis Rojas chooses to balance time with how Villar has been hitting.
After upsetting the Mets on the final game before the break, the Pirates will look to do it again at home this weekend. Ke’Bryan Hayes, who missed two months with a wrist injury early on this year, rebounded to have a terrific first half overall. The former first round pick hit .262/.349/.438 with four homers, a 117 wRC+, and a 1.1 fWAR in 37 games. Castro is another young player to watch, as Mets fans learned thanks to his Sunday performance. His first three big league hits have all gone for home runs, and he has a 218 wRC+ in six games at the big league level so far. Reynolds remains the focal point of Pittsburgh’s offense, as the All Star led the club with a 146 wRC+, a .906 OPS, 16 home runs, and a 3.0 fWAR.
Friday, July 16: Marcus Stroman vs. Chad Kuhl, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Stroman (2021): 98.1 IP, 83 K, 25 BB, 10 HR, 2.75 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 1.12 WHIP, 1.4 bWAR
Stroman hit a bit of a rough patch to end the first half, and he will hope to get back on track as he returns from the break. In his last outing, he started off with three perfect innings and didn’t so much as get to a two-ball count on a single batter he faced. Then, it call came crashing down, and he ended up with another disappointing final line. In the fourth, he gave up two singles and then a two-run double. Then in his final inning of work, he gave up a hit but erased it on a double play. When it looked like he might escape without further damage, he surrendered a home run to the opposing pitcher, which was an unfortunate end to his afternoon. In all, he was charged with three earned runs on five hits with no walks and five strikeouts over five. Over his last three starts, he has a 5.54 ERA, a 4.09 FIP, and a 1.54 WHIP in 13 innings.
Kuhl (2021): 51.1 IP, 42 K, 28 BB, 7 HR, 4.73 ERA, 5.35 FIP, 1.36 WHIP, -0.2 bWAR
Kuhl ended the first half with one of his most encouraging outings of the year. The former ninth round pick pitched six innings of one-run ball. In the start, he gave up four hits and didn’t walk a batter while striking out seven as he settled for a no decision. After missing roughly five weeks with right shoulder discomfort earlier in the 2021 season, he has a 4.04 ERA, a 4.12 WHIP, and a 1.18 WHIP in 35.2 innings across seven starts for Pittsburgh. In three of his last four starts, he has gone six innings and allowed one earned run on four hits or fewer, which has been an encouraging sign.
Saturday, July 17: Tylor Megill vs. Wil Crowe, 7:10 p.m. on WPIX
Megill (2021): 18.0 IP, 26 K, 9 BB, 3 HR, 3.50 ERA, 4.11 FIP, 1.28 WHIP, 0.2 bWAR
Now cemented as a member of the rotation unless the Mets make a move for another starter at the trading deadline in addition to the return of Carlos Carrasco, Tylor Megill will look to bolster his already impressive resume in the second half. He has yet to go beyond five innings in any start, but the Mets have won all four games he has pitched so far and his most recent start against the Pirates was no exception. Megill tossed 3 2⁄3 innings of one-run ball en route to a 4-2 Mets victory against the Pirates in the second game of last Saturday’s doubleheader. As usual, the standout statistic in his outing was the strikeout total (7) and he holds an impressive 13.0 strikeouts per nine innings over his first four starts in the big leagues.
Crowe (2021): 55.0 IP, 50 K, 27 BB, 12 HR, 6.05 ERA, 5.82 FIP, 1.62 WHIP, -0.4 bWAR
The 26-year-old Crowe is a former Nationals prospect and second-round draft pick who was dealt to the Pirates in the Christmas Eve deal that brought Josh Bell to Washington DC. He gained some velocity on his fastball after being sent back down to the minors after his debut, which piqued Pittsburgh’s interest. He saw more opportunity to shine on a rebuilding team and made the Pirates roster out of camp as a long reliever and has since been slotted into the rotation. Although his season ERA is not good, he has often been punished by a handful of mistakes and is still impressing in his outings. He earned his first MLB win on June 25th and will look to build on that success.
Sunday, July 18: Jacob deGrom vs. JT Brubaker, 1:10 p.m. on SNY
deGrom (2021): 92.0 IP, 146 K, 11 BB, 6 HR, 1.08 ERA, 1.23 FIP, 0.54 WHIP, 5.0 bWAR
Sunday’s starter is still listed as TBD on MLB.com, but Mike Puma of the Post reports that it is likely to be deGrom. There’s not much to add about deGrom’s first half that hasn’t already been said a million times by now, but it bears repeating that what Jake did in the first few months of the season is historic and should not be taken for granted. At the All Star break, he leads the NL in ERA, ERA+ (363), FIP, WHIP, strikeouts, K/9 (14.3), BB/9 (1.1), and H/9 (3.8), all of which helped him earn his fourth All Star game nod. As we begin the second half, deGrom is the odds-on favorite to win his third Cy Young award, and is very much in the running for NL MVP honors. In his last start before the break against the Milwaukee Brewers ten days ago, he allowed two solo homers in seven innings while striking out ten.
Brubaker (2021): 88.2 IP, 88 K, 19 BB, 18 HR, 4.47 ERA, 4.70 FIP, 1.15 WHIP, 0.9 bWAR
Brubaker was having an encouraging start on Friday, until he wasn’t. He was perfect in four of his first five innings, with his lone hiccup coming in the third inning as he surrendered a homer to Villar and a run-scoring double to Nimmo. His manager entrusted him with facing the Mets a third time through the order, and it did not pay off. He gave up a double to Nimmo, a walk to Lindor, a run-scoring single to Dominic Smith, and a three-run dinger to Alonso before he was mercifully lifted in what would eventually become a ten-run inning to New York. It was a tough site for the 27-year-old, who seemed to be on the verge of a positive start to go into the break on. As a result, he took his fifth straight loss, a stretch which dates back to June 8. In that span, he owns a 5.67 ERA, a 4.90 FIP, and a 1.08 WHIP in 33.1 innings across six starts.
Prediction: The Mets kick off the second half with a sweep of the Pirates!
How will the Mets fare in their three game series against the Pirates?
This poll is closed
The Mets enact their revenge with a three-game sweep
The Mets take two to kick off the second half on a happy note.
ARRRRR! The Mets drop two of three to the Pirates.
The Mets walk the plank as they’re swept in Pittsburgh.