Make Baseball Fun Again: Rivalries! Competition! This is what we all want to see. I’m totally down with Bryce Harper and his make baseball fun again movement. I wrote it about it at the beginning of the season. I’m done with the unwritten rules, the anti-bat flip agenda, and the handling things with “baseball plays” on the field. The handling things with baseball plays mentality is what led to the Blue Jays and Rangers brawl over the weekend. The Rangers hit Jose Bautista with a pitch as payback for his bat flip and Bautista slid late into second base as payback for the hit by pitch. And you know what happened? Bautista got knocked the hell out by Rougned Odor because handling things with baseball plays doesn’t resolve anything. It’s all BS.
Well a good old fashioned battle between two top division rivals is the perfect example of how baseball can be fun. Mets vs. Nats down the stretch last season was extremely exciting for Mets fans. It was mainly exciting because the Nats rolled over and died. But this season I’m hoping for a good old fashioned dog fight. I’m hoping these teams take this pennant race down to the damn wire. Am I happy that the matchup kicks off with the Mets in a bit of a slump after a tiring west coast road trip? No. But it’s not as if the Nationals are boiling hot. They got swept in a four game set against the Cubs in Chicago. Then they took two out of three against the Tigers at home before splitting a series against the Marlins to conclude their home stand. But this battle had to start eventually, so let’s do this thing.
Game 1: Noah Syndergaard vs. Max Scherzer
Max Scherzer needs no introduction. That crazy-eyed bastard struck out 20 Tigers in a complete game the last time he took the mound. He’s a perennial Cy Young candidate. He faced the Mets four times last year and had a 1-2 record. However, he pitched great in his two losses, and in his final start of the season against the Mets last October he struck out 17. He’s 4-2 this season with a 4.15 ERA, but it’s mainly due to the beating he took from the Cubs where he gave up 7 runs. The Mets overall have a lot of experience against Scherzer. Notable numbers: Asdrubal Cabrera is 12 for 45 with a home run, Yoenis Cespedes is 3 for 9 with a home run, Alejandro De Aza is 11 for 43 with a home run, Curtis Granderson is 7 for 23 with a home run, and Neil Walker is 3 for 9 with two home runs.
Last year, Thor faced Washington three times with two very solid starts at Citi Field. At Citi, he pitched 8 innings, gave up 2 runs and struck out 9 in August, and at the very end of the season in October he went 7 innings, gave up 1 run and struck out 10. Get your popcorn ready for this pitching matchup.
Game 2: Bartolo Colon vs. Gio Gonzalez
The Mets rank 21st in the league in OPS against lefties. Pretty stanky if you ask me. Gio has been lights out this year with a 1.93 ERA. He was 2-0 against the Mets last year in 4 starts and 3 of the 4 were quality starts. He also surrendered 2 runs or less in all four outings. Notable Numbers: Juan Lagares is 10 for 26 with a home run against Gio, and David Wright is 6 for 21 with a home run.
Big Sexy only had one start against the Nats last year, and it came right out the gate in April. He went 6 innings, gave up 1 run and struck out 8. His last outing against the Dodgers was ugly, so let’s hope that it was a blip on the radar and not the start of a May dip in performance.
Game 3: Matt Harvey vs. Stephen Strasburg
I wish I could get excited for this matchup. Poor emo Matt Harvey. He’s just so sad lately with his stinky ass performance and his wacky mechanical problems. The Mets were 1-1 against bleh first half 2015 Strasburg. And in both games the Mets had positive results against him. He went 5.1 innings in both starts and gave up 3 runs in one and 2 in the other. He also surrendered a bunch of hits in each outing. When we faced Strasburg in the second half (September) he was surging. He went 7.1 innings and gave up 3 runs, but he struck out 13 Mets. However, he took the loss in that early September game. That was the September sweep Yo home run game where Yoenis Cespedes executed Drew Storen on the field for the world to see. Notable Numbers: Grandy is 3 for 13, David Wright is 6 for 22 and Neil Walker is 3 for 11 against Strasburg.
Harvey faced the Nats six times in 2015. He went 2-2. He pitched 5 quality starts in those 6 games. But honestly, considering how different and unpredictable he’s been this season, it’s hardly worth re-hashing his results from last year. Let’s just hope Citi Field, and the Nationals bring back his competitive fire and the heat on his fastball. And also his command. He could probably use that too. Bryce Harper is 0 for 20 against Harvey lifetime. God I hope that stays the same.
Things To Look For:
The Heavy Hitters: If you’ve followed baseball at all in 2016, you know that Daniel Murphy is doing a Ted Williams impression. He’s hitting .400, and he has 5 home runs. So Murph is still showing some of that playoff power. Bryce Harper is still doing his MVP thing with a 1.066 OPS and 11 home runs. The Nats thought they’d lack production out of the catcher spot, but Wilson Ramos is hitting .350. But other than those three guys, the Nats lineup has been a barren wasteland. Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman have been garbage. Anthony Rendon has disappeared. I guess they really could have used Cespedes. Phew.
Hot Nats: Well as I said, on the pitching side Scherzer just struck out 20 Tigers. Murph has been scorching hot all season. Danny Espinosa is hitting .321 over his last 7 games. He probably knows young shortstop Trea Turner is going to take his job soon.
Heavyweight Bout: The Mets have the third ranked team ERA in the league and Washington has the second. The Mets have 53 long balls and Washington has 47. We are evenly matched rivals. Pitching and power baby. After years of the Nats blowing us out and then last season where Washington had a complete meltdown, we should finally have a real even matchup.
Zimmerman’s Not Wright: Ryan Zimmerman has been awful. He’s battled injuries for years like David Wright. B.J. Upton, Ryan Zimmerman and Wright all played together in high school in Virginia on the Tidewater Mets. Maybe they all spend those years drinking the same contaminated tidewater because all these dudes have either deteriorated due to injury or lost their skills.
Top O’ The Order To You: Grandy has straight up disappeared. It’s amazing how much goodwill you can earn from one amazing season. I spent years booing Jason Bay, but I don’t think I could ever say a bad thing about Curtis. I just remember all those playoff dingers. Plus he does great things for kids and charities. I love him even when he stinks!
Matz Is Back But Not: So the doctor said Steven Matz‘s elbow is fine and his arm is A-Okay. But the Mets are going to have him skip this series against the Nats. That is totally fine by me. Rest. Look at the numbers that Brian Mangan tweeted out yesterday.
We can undoubtedly afford to give these young pitchers the rest they need.
Yo Flips Off Nats: Cespedes said this week that he never really entertained signing with the Nats. He straight up openly admitted he was using the Nationals for leverage. Now it’s time for Yo to show the Nationals why all the star free agents from the offseason used them as leverage. It’s time to put them in their place before Dusty Baker and his “spanking hand” beat us to it.
Frank Reynolds Trueborn Son: The Mets recalled infielder Matt Reynolds from AAA to join the bench while Wilmer Flores is rehabbing his hamstring. By the time you finish reading this sentence, Reynolds will have already passed Eric Campbell on the depth chart at SS/2B/3B. In all seriousness though, this call-up says a lot about our lack of depth. Reynolds was hitting like .230 in Vegas. Ty Kelly (who nobody on earth has ever heard of) is hitting like .400 in Vegas for the Mets. A .230 average when adjusted for Vegas inflation is like .080. That’s a Kirk Nieuwenhuis level of ineptitude. Speaking of Kirk he’s hitting .275 for the Brewers with a .383 OBP. Whoops!
Duda Dunzo: Speaking of lack of depth, I was shocked to see Eric Campbell in the game 1 starting lineup tonight. I was shocked until the Mets announced Lucas Duda got an injection in his back to combat stiffness. A back injection certainly explains why Soup is on the menu in this series. Duda will also miss game 2 because Gio G is a lefty. And we’re off to a fantastic start.
Wright Dunzo: Well I was about to publish this series preview and then the Mets scratched Wright from the lineup to go along with Duda. Why? You guessed it. The old back flared up. Ray Ramirez better get the postgame back injection machine fired up for Wright and Duda. I tried to stay positive throughout this entire post, but goddamn. Two back related scratches in one day? Let’s just get this damn thing over with.