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Mets conclude NL Central swing with series against Reds

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The last of four straight series against NL Central teams will see the Mets go up against the 2nd-place team in the division.

Syndication: The Enquirer Sam Greene via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Mets (48-42) come into this week’s series against the Reds (48-45) series against the Reds in desperate need of a good stretch of games. After beating the first place Brewers in two out of three games two weeks ago, the Mets had every reason to believe that they were about to jump up in the standings with back-to-back series against the last place Pirates to close the first half and open the second. Alas, the Mets only managed to split the first series against Pittsburgh, and now they are coming off a series in which a dramatic come-from-behind victory in Sunday’s game was the only thing that prevented the team from suffering an embarrassing sweep to one of baseball’s worst teams.

The Mets’ offense got off to a pretty miserable start on Friday, managing just one run and three hits against the mighty Chad Kuhl and Pittsburgh bullpen. Meanwhile, Marcus Stroman struggled for most of his start, giving up eight hits in five innings (whilst also getting into it with John Nogowski). The bullpen also gave up a couple of runs, and the team simply never looked competitive against the Pirates (who, in case it hasn’t been mentioned, are normally very bad). But somehow, the worst thing that happened in this game had nothing to do with the final score, but was instead Francisco Lindor injuring his oblique on a swing, which resulted in him being placed on the IL the next day. The team will need to continue to figure out how to manage without their mainstay shortstop against Cincinnati and beyond.

Friday’s loss wasn’t nearly as painful as the one that would follow the next day, however. This time, the Mets got some offense—mostly thanks to two homers by J.D. Davis—and a great start by Tylor Megill, and they entered the eighth inning with a 6-0 lead. But somehow, they found a way to lose: Seth Lugo gave up five runs in the eighth inning, and—after the Mets got themselves an insurance run in the ninth—Edwin Diaz gave up a two-out grand slam to Jacob Stallings (!?!?) to give the team their third straight loss against the Pirates (no, seriously—have I mentioned to you that they are bad?).

It certainly looked early on in Sunday’s game like the Mets were headed for a sweep, as Taijuan Walker didn’t make it out of the first inning and gave up six runs (thanks in part to a bizarre infield single which scored three runs due to a sequence of events that I lack the language skills to adequately describe). Thankfully for the team’s place in the standings and for the sanity of all of its fans, they somehow managed to slowly claw their way back over the rest of the game; the bullpen miraculously put up 8.1 scoreless innings, and the Mets chipped away at the lead with a couple runs here and a couple runs there, culminating with a go-ahead two-run homer by Michael Conforto in the ninth to give them their first and final lead of the day.

Thanks to this incredible comeback, the team exited Pittsburgh with one out of three games. Nevertheless, that is hardly a satisfactory result when facing one of the worst teams in the league, and given that poor showing and the injury bug that has once again befallen the Mets (with both Lindor and Jacob deGrom being placed on the IL), the vibe around the team has unquestionably taken a turn for the worse. They will need a good series or three to change that.

The Mets will now turn their attention to the Reds, who they will face for the first time in the 2021 season. Cincinnati currently stands in second place in the NL Central. Like the Mets, the Reds also got their second half started off in less-than-ideal fashion, suffering a three-game sweep to the Brewers that leaves them seven games out of first place. Like the Mets, they will also be viewing this series as a chance to stop the bleeding and get some much-needed wins in the books.

The main reason the Reds have remained in contention this season is the team’s offense, which ranks fourth amongst all NL teams in runs scored. They’ve been led by All Star outfielders Nick Castellanos (who, with a 155 wRC+ and 3.4 fWAR, has turned himself into one of the best players in the league) and Jesse Winker (139 wRC+, 2.2 fWAR), and rookie second baseman Jonathan India (122 wRC+, 1.9 fWAR) would be a strong competitor for NL Rookie of the Year were it not for Trevor Rogers’s performance in Miami. On the negative side of things, Eugenio Suarez has had a miserable year with a 68 wRC+ and -0.4 fWAR. Additionally, Castellanos got hit by a pitch on the wrist this past Friday and missed the next two games as a result; it remains to be seen if he will be back for this upcoming series or if the injury will impact his performance at all. On the whole, however, Cincinnati has a number of solid offensive players that Mets pitchers will need to find a way to contain.

On the other hand, the pitching for the Reds has suffered from both inconsistency and injuries. The staff ranks 12th in the National League in team ERA, with much of the damage being done against the bullpen. Despite being a solid member of the Reds’ relief corps for the past few seasons, Amir Garrett has struggled to the tune of a 7.22 ERA this year, and the rest of the team’s relievers have only done a little bit better. The team had been anticipating the season debut of two-way player Michael Lorenzen after a lengthy IL stint to open the season, but tragically he injured himself in his first game back and finds himself back on the IL. If the Mets are wise, they’ll try to burn through the Reds’ starters as quickly as possible and do some damage against the team’s bullpen arms.

Monday, July 19: Vladimir Gutierrez vs. Jerad Eickhoff, 7:10 p.m. on SNY

Gutierrez (2021): 50.1 IP, 36 K, 23 BB, 8 HR, 4.29 ERA, 5.30 FIP, 1.351 WHIP, 1.1 bWAR

The 25-year-old rookie pitcher, who will be making his tenth major league start in the series opener, has been a serviceable member of the Reds’ starting rotation despite somewhat pedestrian strikeout, walk, and home run rates. His two roughest outings of the season both came against the powerhouse Padres lineup; take out those two games and he’s pitched quality starts in five of his seven appearances and hasn’t given up more than three runs in any of them, so he could pose a challenge to a Mets lineup that is still struggling to find consistency. Gutierrez primarily relies on a fastball/slider/curveball combo with a changeup occasionally thrown in for good measure. In his last start before the break, he pitched a solid start against the first-place Brewers, giving up just one run in six innings (albeit without notching a single strikeout in the outing).

Eickhoff (2021): 12.2 IP, 6 K, 4 BB, 6 HR, 4.97 ERA, 9.33 FIP, 1.658 WHIP, -0.1 bWAR

It speaks to the desperation of the Mets’ pitching staff that they are throwing Jerad Eickhoff back out there despite how poorly his past couple appearances have gone. While his first outing for the Mets—in which he threw four scoreless innings against the Braves—was generally solid (if not quite as much as the stat line might make it look), his subsequent two appearances were anything but. The long ball has punished him in each of those two appearances, as he gave up four homers in six innings against the Nationals on June 28 and followed that up with two more homers in 2.2 innings against the Pirates in the final game before the All Star break. He gave up 8 total hits against the Nationals and 6 against the Pirates, so even if you look past the homers you still see a pitcher who has been entirely hittable thus far this year. Alas, with Jacob deGrom now on the IL, Carlos Carrasco not quite ready to return, and none of the other starting pitching options having distinguished themselves for the Mets, Eickhoff will get another opportunity, and following a game in which the Mets had to get 8.1 innings out of their bullpen, they will at the very least hope that he can give them some length.

Tuesday, July 20: Wade Miley vs. TBD, 7:10 p.m. on SNY

Miley (2021): 96.1 IP, 76 K, 26 BB, 6 HR, 2.80 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 1.163 WHIP, 4.2 bWAR

Miley is putting up one of the best seasons in his eleven-year career following a disappointing year in the shortened 2020 season, which was his first in a Reds uniform. The highlight of his 2021 season thus far, of course, was his no-hitter against Cleveland on May 7th, but he’s been remarkably sharp and consistent throughout the whole year thus far. He may have made the All Star team in a different year, but he instead must settle for simply being the most reliable starter on the Reds’ staff. Miley had one of his most impressive starts of the year in his most recent start, throwing eight shutout innings against the Brewers to lead Cincinnati to victory against their division rivals. The Mets will be counting their blessings to have J.D. Davis back for this game, as they will need as many lefty mashers in the lineup as possible.

TBD

The Mets have not yet announced a starter for Tuesday’s game. Robert Stock, who pitched four innings and gave up two runs in his first (and, to date, only) start with the Mets against the Brewers on July 7th, could be an option.

Wednesday, July 21: Jeff Hoffman vs. TBD, 12:35 p.m. on SNY

Hoffman (2021): 41.0 IP, 39 K, 27 BB, 4 HR, 4.61 ERA, 4.66 FIP, 1.585 WHIP, 0.4 bWAR

Hoffman will be making his first start since May have a lengthy stint on the IL due to right shoulder soreness. The former Rockies pitcher has thus far made ten starts in his first season for the Reds, and while he has benefitted from leaving Coors Field, the former top prospect’s overall numbers have still been relatively middling. His walk numbers are as high as they’ve ever been, and he’s struggled to go deep into games. It’s possible he was nursing some discomfort prior to his IL stint that helped lead to those struggles, but on the other hand, Hoffman does not have the most impressive track record in the major leagues to begin with. The Reds may move him to the bullpen if he does not improve his performance, so he will certainly be looking to prove himself in his first start back.

TBD

The Mets have also not announced a starter for Wednesday’s game, though this would be Stroman’s turn in the rotation following his start last Friday. It is worth noting that he did experience some sort of issue with his toe during the benches-clearing incident at the end of his start. With any luck, that will not be anything serious and the team will announce Stroman as the starter for this game in due course.

Prediction: The Mets will repeat the results of their most recent series, losing the first two games before pulling out a victory to avoid a sweep.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    The Mets will come back roaring with a series sweep.
    (19 votes)
  • 44%
    The Mets will up a strong fight in Cincinnati and come away with two of three.
    (74 votes)
  • 22%
    The Mets will continue to struggle and only manage to rack up one win.
    (37 votes)
  • 12%
    The Mets will unravel before our very eyes and suffer a series sweep.
    (21 votes)
  • 8%
    Pizza!
    (14 votes)
165 votes total Vote Now