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Mets return to Citi Field to begin long homestand with three against Blue Jays

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The Mets will play 11 straight at Citi Field, starting tonight.

MLB: JUL 16 Rangers at Blue Jays Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Mets (50-43) kick off their first homestand of the second half with a series against the Toronto Blue Jays (48-44). New York played the Blue Jays in Buffalo last year and ended up dropping two out of the three. The last time the Blue Jays traveled to Citi Field, they split a pair with the Mets back in 2018. This will be the first of 11 consecutive games that the Mets will play at Citi Field, which includes a five-game set against the division rival Atlanta Braves.

The Mets rebounded from a tough series against the Pittsburgh Pirates by taking two out of three at Great American Ballpark against the Cincinnati Reds. Monday was just about the most wild game you will ever see, and it will take far too much space to recap everything that happened (you can catch up in our full recap!) In a back-and-forth contest that featured a combined 14 pitchers, took just under five hours, and ended in a 15-11 score, the Mets emerged victorious thanks to seven home runs. The big blow was a three-run blast in the 11th by Kevin Pillar, with Michael Conforto providing an insurance run with his second dinger of the game. The Mets were able to side-step a third straight Edwin Díaz blown save, three errors from Luis Guillorme, and Jerad Eickhoff allowing seven runs over 3.2 innings, and Anthony Banda picked up the win in his first outing in orange and blue.

Tuesday was a much more tame affair that ended with the Mets falling 4-3. Pete Alonso put the Mets ahead in the first with a solo homer, but Robert Stock gave it right back by serving up a Jonathan India leadoff homer. Stock would only last one inning due to a hamstring injury, which forced the Mets to further tax their already-overworked bullpen. The Reds jumped ahead for good against Stephen Nogosek with back-to-back homers from Joey Votto and Aristedes Aquino, though the Mets tried to fight back. They got to within a run in the seventh and again in the eighth after the Reds added an insurance run, but they wasted a golden opportunity in the ninth against a clearly-fatigued Amir Garrett, and they stranded Brandon Nimmo at first after his leadoff walk.

The Mets completed the series win with a dominant 7-0 victory on Wednesday afternoon. Marcus Stroman was dealing and gave the Mets’ bullpen a much-needed rest by tossing eight shutout innings on 90 pitches. The lone hit he surrendered was an Aquino single in the third, but he was otherwise spotless as he struck out seven in earning his seventh win of the year. On offense, Jonathan Villar put the Mets ahead with a solo homer in the second, and Dominic Smith provided the big blast with a grand slam. Luis Guillorme added a two-run dinger, for good measure.

Heading into play tonight, the Mets hold a four game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies and the Braves in the National League East. Since the break, the Mets have been firing on all cylinders offensively, as they’ve averaged 6.67 runs per game after averaging 3.76 runs-per-game before the break. They currently rank 27th in the league at slightly under four runs-per-game for the season, which still isn’t great but is an improvement!

Smith, who hit his second career grand slam in Wednesday’s win, has been one of the club’s hottest bats this month. He is leading the way in July with 14 runs scored and 14 runs batted in while slashing .305/.373/.627 with five homers, a team-high 168 wRC+, and a team-best 0.7 fWAR in 17 games. It has been especially encouraging to watch after he struggled for so much of the first few months of 2021.

Alonso, meanwhile, has not let the Home Run Derby win ruin his swing, as he has a team-high six homers this month while hitting .239/.292/.552 with a 127 wRC+ and a 0.2 fWAR in 17 games. Conforto, who has been mired in a seemingly never-ending slump, has finally started to perform like the player the club and fans have come to expect since the break. In the last six games, he leads the team with three homers, including his big game-deciding blast on Sunday in Pittsburgh. In that span, he has a 148 wRC+.

The Blue Jays will be looking to bounce back after getting swept in a rain-shortened two-game set in Buffalo against the Boston Red Sox, a series in which they were outscored 20-8 after outscoring the Texas Rangers 25-2 over their three-game sweep last weekend. Toronto enters play tonight in fourth place in the AL East. The Blue Jays got some good news recently, learning that they will officially be returning to Toronto to play in the Rogers Centre beginning on Friday, July 30. Their first game will be open to 15,000 fans.

All eyes will be on Vladimir Guerrero Jr. this series, as the Blue Jays star and son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero has a serious shot at the Triple Crown this year. To date, the All Star is hitting .329/.430/.677 with 32 homers, 79 runs batted in, 75 runs scored, a .347 ISO, a 193 wRC+, and a 5.0 fWAR in 92 games. In the Triple Crown categories, he ranks first in runs batted in and second in homer runs and batting average, all of which puts him squarely in the AL MVP race alongside Shohei Ohtani. He also leads the AL with a 1.107 OPS.

Guerrero Jr. is far from only offensive threat in Toronto’s lineup, however. Marcus Semien is having a stellar season, hitting .273/.343/.524 with 23 homers, a 133 wRC+, and a 4.0 fWAR in 92 games. Bo Bichette, another son of a former major leaguer, has posted a .292/.340/.472 slash line with 16 homers, a 121 wRC+, and a 2.6 fWAR in 92 games.

Friday, July 23: Steven Matz vs. Tylor Megill, 7:10 p.m. on SNY

Matz (2021): 81.1 IP, 84 K, 21 BB, 12 HR, 4.43 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 1.33 WHIP, 0.8 bWAR

Matz will make his first start against the team that drafted him and traded him last offseason after six seasons. The Long Island Lefty had a great start for the Blue Jays, striking out nine over 6.1 innings of one-run ball in his debut and pitching to a 2.31 ERA over his first four starts. Then he fell into familiar patterns and his numbers declined following a few subpar starts for Toronto. Recently, he missed about three weeks in June after contracting COVID-19, returning right before the break with a couple of tough outings. In his last appearance, he earned the win in Game 2 of Toronto’s doubleheader by tossing five shutout innings against the Rangers. It remains to be seen if everybody’s favorite Grandpa will be in attendance for Matz’s homecoming.

Megill (2021): 24.0 IP, 28 K, 9 BB, 3 HR, 2.63 ERA, 3.72 FIP, 1.21 WHIP, 0.5 bWAR

Megill turned in the best outing of his young career on Saturday and, if not for the unforgivable bullpen meltdown, was well on his way to earning his first career win. He pitched six shutout innings against the Pirates, scattering six hits while striking out two. It was the longest outing at the major league level, and was an improvement over his previous start where he only gave up a run against the Pirates but walked three and lasted just 3.2 innings. Over his last three starts, he has given up two earned runs in 14.2 innings, with 16 strikeouts. He will once again try for his first win.

Saturday, July 24: Hyun-Jin Ryu vs. Taijuan Walker, 7:10 p.m. on WPIX

Ryu (2021): 105.2 IP, 85 K, 24 BB, 14 HR, 3.32 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 1.13 WHIP, 2.5 bWAR

Ryu turned a second place finish in the 2019 NL Cy Young race and a league-best 2.32 ERA into a four-year deal worth $80 to become Toronto’s ace. After a solid first year in 2020, he’s had a more modest season with the Blue Jays this time around, though his numbers remain solid. He is coming off his best outing of 2021, as he pitched a complete game shutout in Game 1 of Toronto’s doubleheader on July 18. In seven innings, he scattered three hits and struck out four, needing 83 pitches to complete the feat. Ryu has always spelled bad news for Mets’ bats, as he owns a 1.23 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP with 59 strikeouts in 58.2 innings across nine starts. Those career numbers, combined with the team’s ineptitude against left-handed pitching, could be favorable for the veteran lefty.

Walker (2021): 90.1 IP, 89 K, 34 BB, 6 HR, 2.99 ERA, 3.30 FIP, 1.12 WHIP, 1.4 bWAR

It was, simply put, a disastrous outing for Walker his last time out in Pittsburgh. Walker never got comfortable in his first outing after tossing an inning in the All Star Game. The right-hander recorded just one out while getting tattooed for six runs (five earned) on four hits. He walked four and did not strike a batter out, and he made a spectacular mistake in swatting a fair ball out of play, resulting in additional runs scoring. The Mets were able to pick him up and get the win, but Walker still saw his ERA jump up almost half a run. Walker will look to get back on track against the team he most recently played for before coming to New York over the offseason.

Sunday, July 25: Ross Stripling vs. TBD, 1:10 p.m. on WPIX

Stripling (2021): 75.0 IP, 78 K, 25 BB, 18 HR, 5.04 ERA, 5.30 FIP, 1.31 WHIP, 0.6 bWAR

Like Ryu, Stripling came over from the Los Angeles Dodgers, though he arrived by trade during the 2020 season. After an All Star 2018 campaign, he has struggled to recapture that glory in his recent seasons, and his results since the start of last season have not been pretty. The right-hander is coming off his shortest outing of the season, where he lasted just one-third of an inning and was tagged for six earned runs on four hits. Over his last two starts, he has pitched four total innings and has been charged with ten earned runs, which has resulted in his ERA jumping by almost a full run.

TBD

The Mets have not yet named a starting pitcher for Sunday’s game. It is not entirely out of the realm of possibility that Carlos Carrasco could make his Mets’ debut, but given his command issues in his second rehab start on Tuesday, it’s highly unlikely the team will feel comfortable pitching him without another go-around in the minors. Thus, the search for starting pitching continues.

Prediction: The Mets take two of three against the Blue Jays!

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    The Mets return home with a bang as they sweep Toronto!
    (25 votes)
  • 48%
    The Mets start the homestand off by taking two of three.
    (68 votes)
  • 18%
    The Mets take one against Toronto but drop the series.
    (26 votes)
  • 6%
    The Mets are left feeling blue in a three-game sweep at Citi Field.
    (9 votes)
  • 9%
    Pizza!
    (13 votes)
141 votes total Vote Now