Series Preview: Neil Walkyear Pittsburgh Homecoming

The Jon Niese for Neil Walker trade was a good old fashioned need for need swap. More often than not, we see trades that involve prospects for a stud or salary dumps. This was a rare situation where the Mets wanted a new second baseman and the Pirates wanted a middle of the rotation starter. So far both players have performed as expected. Jon Niese hasn’t had his annual month long injury yet, but I’m sure it will come soon. Walker is a born and raised Pittsburgh guy, and I’m sure the Pirates will treat him right for this three game set despite failing to pay him the contract that he felt he deserved. I’m sure Neil Walkyear will continue to produce for the Mets this year, and then leave for a lucrative offer from one of the Mets rivals like Daniel Murphy did. He’ll get the last laugh when it comes to getting paid. That’s a lock. As far as Niese goes, the Pirates will probably reluctantly pick up the option on his contract because his performance is just good enough to warrant the salary.

The Pirates are sixth in the league in runs scored and fourth in OPS. The Pirates are 15th in the league in team ERA. Their bullpen has been particularly stanky coming in at 22nd in ERA. If the season ended today the Mets would face the Pirates in the NL Wild Card playoff game. The Mets lost all six games against the Pirates last season. Beating up on the three NL East bottom feeders is great, but it won’t be enough this season if the Nationals keep playing the way they are playing. The Mets really need to make a statement in this series and remind the Pirates who represented the NL in the World Series last year. Plus, the Pirates just lost 2 out of 3 to the awful Angels in Pittsburgh and before that they dropped 3 out of 4 to the Marlins in Miami. They are stumbling and now is as good a time as any for the Mets to pounce on them.

Pitching Matchups:

Game 1: Steven Matz vs. Jon Niese

Jon Niese appears to be having a classic Jon Niese season. He’s 5-2 with a 4.36 ERA and he’s surrendered 12 home runs. He had a strong May however going 2-2 with a 3.82 ERA. He fired 4 quality starts in his 5 outings. His only mediocre start was against the Cubs. His last time out against the Marlins he went 5 innings and gave up 2 runs. Notable Matchups: Curtis Granderson is 3 for 9 in the lefty vs. lefty matchup against Niese. Homeboy Neil Walker is 2 for 13.

Steven Matz is having one hell of a rookie season. In his last start against the White Sox he uncharacteristically lost his composure in the 6th inning and got yanked after giving up 3 runs in 5.2 innings. He’s never faced the Pirates. I’m looking forward to when Jon Niese falls apart in the middle innings and Matz does not. I’m sure it will sting a lot when Niese very publicly shows everyone that he is the poor man’s Matz.

Game 2: Jacob deGrom vs. Juan Nicasio

Juan Nicasio was a reliever on the Dodgers last season. He came over to the Pirates as a project for their pitching coach Ray Searage. So far Donald Trump would say it’s been a disaster. He’s 4-4 with a 4.75 ERA. In May he was 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA. Yuck. Hopefully the Mets crush him so he loses his spot in the rotation, and they call up prospect Tyler Glasnow who’s sitting on my fantasy team bench. That would kill two birds with one stone for me. Notable Matchups: Asdrubal Cabrera is 2 for 6 against Nicasio with a home run, James Loney is 2 for 11, Neil Walker is 3 for 10, and Rene Rivera is 2 for 4 with a home run.

Jacob deGrom is 3-1 with a 2.62 ERA in 2016. He’s just doing his silent ace thing. DeGrom dominates quietly like a damn ninja assassin. Last time out against the White Sox, he went 7 innings, gave up 5 hits, 1 run and struck out 10. He didn’t face the Pirates in 2015. Maybe that’s one of the reasons we lost every game against them last season.

Game 3: Noah Syndergaard vs. Francisco Liriano

Normally this would be a hot pitching matchup for the series finale, but Francisco Liriano has been struggling for the Pirates this year. After going 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA in April, he went 2-3 with a 5.34 ERA in May. Those May numbers are a little skewed by a horrendous start against the Cubs where he gave up 8 runs in 4.2 innings. Last time out though he got crushed by the Angels in Pittsburgh. He went 3.1 innings and gave up 10 hits and 7 runs. Most of the season however, he’s been rocked on the road (7.09 ERA) and stellar at home (3.14 ERA) so he’ll probably be tough in the finale. Last season he pitched 6 innings against the Mets in Pittsburgh and gave up a run while striking out 12. Notable Matchups: Asdrubal Cabrera is 12 for 24 lifetime against Liriano with a home run, Yoenis Cespedes is 1 for 15, and Curtis Granderson is 6 for 32 with a home run.

Thor faced the Pirates at PNC last year. He went 6 innings, gave up 4 runs (only 1 ER) and struck out 5. I expect the Lightning Lord to continue to wreak havoc on the Pirates as he’s done with every other team.

Things To Look For:

Korean Star: Jung Ho Kang is hitting .280 with 2 homers in his last 7 games. Remember when the Mets could have signed him for basically nothing a year and a half ago, but we passed and elected to use Ruben Tejada again? Well whatever it’s not like we need a versatile infielder.

Outfield Of Dreams: The Pirates outfield is so goddamn elite. Starlin Marte is hitting .326 with 5 dingers, Gregory Polanco is hitting .308 with 9 dingers, and Andrew McCutchen has 9 long balls. He’s only hitting .250, but he’s a perennial MVP candidate, and he’ll take off eventually. It’s always exciting when you get a chance to watch the best players the game has to offer and the Pirates outfield has three of them.

So Short We Forfeit: Juan Lagares‘ status is still up in the air. Asdrubal and Cespedes are a little banged up. The Mets roster is a damn injury train wreck. Honestly, this reminds me of Little League when a game was being played on a holiday weekend or something and a bunch of kids couldn’t make it. I feel like we are going to show up to PNC with six position players, and we are going to have to forfeit. Then we’ll just borrow three Pirates players and play an exhibition game. Then everyone will get ice cream after the game. Sounds fun!

I Hate His Damn Face: Francisco Cervelli was a nobody before 2013 and in 2014/2015 he morphed into one of the better catchers in the game. He’s a known cheat who served a 50 game suspension in 2013 for steroids. In all likelihood he “morphed” thanks to his involvement in the Biogenesis steroid scandal. I hate him, and I don’t like his face. He’s got that smug Yankee smile, and it makes me sick. He’s actually not really having a great season in 2016, but screw him anyway.

Series Preview: Mr. Met Goes To Washington / Murph Reunion Bowl Take 2

mr met washington

This Could Be Fun (But Usually It Isn’t): The Mets are 35-37 at Nationals Park all-time. But between 2012-2014 they were 10-17. During that stretch, it was awful facing the Nationals. It just felt like they consistently smacked us around. That’s why the success we had against them last season was so big. We went 6-3 in Washington. The success against the Nats and particularly the success in Washington was one of the big differences for the 2015 Mets. That success started with our pitching, but it really all came together with the addition of Yoenis Cespedes. Once again, we will need him to lead our offense if we are going to come away from this Washington series with Ws.

Yo Loves The Capitol: Yoenis Cespedes was 6 for 14 with 3 doubles and 2 dingers at Nationals Park last season. It may take forever for the politicians on Capitol Hill to re-establish relations with Cuba, but Yo will be leaving his Cuban mark on Washington before this series is over, that I assure you.

Pitching Matchups:

Game 1: Bartolo Colon vs. Gio Gonzalez

Gio has been lights out this year with a 1.86 ERA. He’s 10-4 lifetime against the Mets with a 2.59 ERA in 18 games. He beat the Mets last week at Citi Field going 6.1 innings and giving up a run. The Mets have been bad against lefties this year. But this guy isn’t going anywhere. So we need to figure out a way to beat him. Paging David Wright. Notable Numbers: Juan Lagares is 11 for 29 with a home run against Gio, and David Wright is 6 for 24 with a home run.

Bart’s recent outing against the Dodgers was ugly. His outing last week against the Nats at Citi was gross (4.2 innings pitched, 3 runs, 5 hits, 5 walks). He 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. He needs a Big Sexy rebound start in a big way otherwise we officially have two struggling starters in our rotation.

Game 2: Matt Harvey vs. Stephen Strasburg

The Nationals have won 13 straight Strasburg starts. He smacked the Mets around last week at Citi going 6 innings, giving up 1 run and striking out 10. Notable Numbers: Yoenis Cespedes is 2 for 5, David Wright is 7 for 25 and Neil Walker is 5 for 14 against Strasburg.

I thought last week’s Harvey start against the Nats where he gave up 9 runs (6 ER) in 2.2 innings was rock bottom. I thought for sure the Mets would skip his next start. Nope. He’s going right back out there and this time in the lion’s den. The Mets watched him throw a bullpen session this weekend, and apparently he looked good. Harvey officially has the Mets stamp of approval so it looks like we can put this Harvey debate to bed right? We’re all confident that he’s figured things out right?!? On a related note, is there a word that means “lower than rock-bottom”?

Game 3: Steven Matz vs. Tanner Roark

Tanner Roark was the odd man out of the rotation for the Nats during much of last season. He made 12 starts in 2015 and was swinging back and forth between the pen and the rotation. This year he’s rejoined the rotation full time, and he’s been very good. He’s 3-3 with a 2.89 ERA. He made one start against the Mets last year in October. He went 6 scoreless innings. He made 4 relief appearances against the Mets last year and for the most part was effective. The only time he surrendered any runs came on July 21st where he got rocked in Washington and gave up 4 runs in a third of an inning. Notable Numbers: Curtis Granderson is 6 for 16, Neil Walker is 2 for 5, and Rene Rivera is 3 for 8.

Steven Matz didn’t face the Nats last year. He missed those big series late in the season recovering from that abdominal injury. But he’s been a rookie of the year stud this year. I hope he’s in a position to help the Mets win the series or even sweep. He dominated Milwaukee this past Friday going 7 innings, and giving up 2 runs with 8 strikeouts.

Things To Look For:

Hot Nats 2.0: So nothing has really changed since last week. Daniel Murphy is still leading the league in hitting and destroying every pitcher he faces thanks to whatever remains of his Kevin Long pixie dust supply. Anthony Rendon is hitting .458 in his last 7 games. After his cold start to the season it appears he is rounding into form. Jayson Werth is hitting .333 in his last 7 games, but he did hit into a horrendous 9th inning bases loaded double play this weekend against the Marlins.

Penmanship: So the Mets have the best pen ERA in the league. But the Nationals pen has been fantastic as well. The Nats and Mets have the same strengths. Pitching, Pitching, Pitching.

Conforto Feeling The Heat: Michael Conforto has 3 dingers and is hitting .300 in his last 7 games. Some of Noah Syndergaard‘s scorching fastball heat must be warming Conforto up. Thor throws fire, loves Game of Thrones, and is clearly casting his light upon Conforto. I wouldn’t want to step foot near Harvey’s East Village apartment. That place must be colder than the ice cells at Castle Black.

Duda Dunzo 2.0: Lucas Duda spent Monday morning at the Hospital For Special Surgery being probed by Ray Ramirez. Ray is probably in the hospital men’s room right now grabbing Kleenex for the Duda “tissue sample”. Lucas going on the DL is a lock. Obviously I’m upset about Duda’s back injury considering we have no real alternative, but in truth he’s been MIA at the plate lately. If he had been on one of his burning hot streaks, I’d be devastated. That doesn’t mean his absence in the lineup won’t have a negative impact, but I suppose it makes the injury sting slightly less. Pray for Duda.

Playing Short Is Dumb: Speaking of the Duda injury, I wrote about it in my last Nationals series preview a week ago. We’ve played shorthanded now for six straight games. Playing with a short bench is the Mets favorite strategy. I still can’t believe the Mets twiddle their thumbs for as long as they do when it comes to injuries. Also, on the subject of short, how great has Asdrubal Cabrera been? Other than Cespedes and Conforto, he’s been the only real constant on offense. At some point, this guy is going to hit a rough patch and lose himself at the plate. It happens to everyone at one point or another over the course of the season. Let’s just hope by then someone else in the lineup wakes up and picks up the slack. Yeah, I’m looking at you Neil Walker. The guy has been spiraling into oblivion since he started on pace for 70 home runs. He’s .188 in his last 15 games and .167 in his last 7 games. Yuck.

Lil’ Late For New Gloves: Alejandro De Aza recently grabbed a first basemen glove to try and increase his versatility. People are calling for Neil Walker to grab a first basemen glove. I’ve even seen fans say Travis d’Arnaud should take a break from downing platelet-rich plasma smoothies in Cali to take some reps at first base. Umm I said this in February, but what the hell were the Mets thinking this spring? We never had a backup first basemen other than Eric Campbell. We claimed Wilmer Flores was the backup first basemen, but he played like two spring games at the position. How the hell did we not have d’Arnaud, Wilmer, and Kevin Plawecki out there taking grounders every single day? Duda spent time on the DL last season. This injury was a lock. This was a predictable scenario, and the Mets really blew their chance to get ahead of it.

The Blood Of The First Men: The Mets are likely to promote someone from Triple-A Vegas for the Nationals series once Lucas Duda is placed on the DL. Rumor has it Ty Kelly has arrived in Washington. Ty is a 27 year old journeyman utility infielder/outfielder and look at this guy:

Ty Kelly looks like he was out foraging for fruits and nuts when a time traveler showed up and brought him to the future to test his baseball skills. The blood of the Neanderthal flows through his veins. Considering he’s a minor league journeyman, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to find out he spends his offseason filming History Channel “Early Man” specials. But in all seriousness, he’s hitting nearly .400 in Vegas. Now we all know offensive numbers in Vegas are super inflated due to the thin air. But no matter where you are playing, if you lead the league in hitting, you deserve some praise. If he does get promoted, let’s just hope Ty doesn’t crack open a teammates skull with his bat and drag him back to his cave (which I’m assuming will be on the basement level of the Washington Marriott Hotel).

Today: Let’s ride the Brewers series victory wave and take the good vibes on the road tonight. Let’s go Big Sexy.

Series Preview: Brewers In Town To Kick Us While We’re Down

The Brewers stink right? They are 18-23 and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are tanking this season, and so they must be awful. Wait what’s that? They’ve scored more runs then the Mets this season? Really? They rank 15th in runs scored and the Mets are 24th despite all of our home runs. OPS? Both the Mets and Brewers have a .731 team OPS and sit behind 12 other teams in those rankings. The Brewers just took 2 out of 3 from the Cubs. Not too shabby.

Luckily, it’s the pitching staff that defines the Mets and is the big differentiator between the two teams. The Mets team ERA still ranks third in baseball while the Brewers sit at 27th with a 4.87 ERA. The Mets pen ERA is tops in all the land. The recent beatdowns of Matt Harvey and Bartolo Colon has dropped our starting staff ERA out of the top 5.

I would like to think that this is a good time for the Mets to have a big home series against a “bad” team. But the Mets are playing like crap right now. We’ve lost 7 of our last 10. As a pessimistic Mets fan, this feels like a series where a dog doo team will come to town and field goal kick us right in the face. I could easily see the Brewers snagging 2 out of 3 at Citi Field and leaving us beaten and bloodied for our trip to Washington. But we have one big thing going for us:

Three Aces: Sure the Matt Harvey reality has Mets fans down in the dumps. But the good news is we have our three ace strategy in play this weekend. Matz/deGrom/Thor go against this Brewer squad. We need to win. Let’s sweep. We have a rotation full of stoppers and that’s exactly what we need from them. Stop this bleeding.

Pitching Matchups:

Game 1: Steven Matz vs. Wily Peralta

Since his 17 win 2014 season, Wily Peralta has been nothing short of El Stinko. He’s rocking a 7.30 ERA this season. He’s been spanked in nearly all of his 2016 starts. The Mets crushed him last May in New York. He went 5 innings and gave up 5 runs on 9 hits. Notable Matchups: Lucas Duda is 3 for 9 against him. Maybe this matchup will help Duda get out of his funk. Curtis Granderson is 5 for 8 with two home runs. Ditto on Grandy and funks. Neil Walker is 4 for 14 with a home run, Eric Campbell is 2 for 3 and Juan Lagares is 2 for 3. David Wright is 0 for 8.

Other than his horrendous opening start of the season, Steven Matz has been exceptional. This is his first start back after the first ElbowGate of the season. The doctors say he is fine. He felt fine after his bullpen sessions and whatnot. The Mets may be careful with his pitch count, but let’s hope his issues are behind him for now and he can contribute again. We need his studliness now more than ever with Matt Harvey struggling. The Brewers aren’t a particularly good lefty hitting team coming in at 18th in OPS against lefties. But Ryan Braun (.336 career average) and Jonathan Lucroy (.297 career average) historically crush lefties. Although Lucroy has been bad against lefties this season (6 for 40).

Game 2: Jacob deGrom vs. Zach Davies

Zach Davies is a 23 year old young righty that the Mets haven’t faced. He’s 1-3 with a 5.58 ERA on the season. He’s not a hard thrower. He’s the pitcher the Brewers acquired from the Orioles when they sent them Gerardo Parra at last year’s trade deadline. His first three starts of the season were poor. However, two of his last three appearances have been quality starts, and he hasn’t surrendered more than 2 runs in his last three outings.

As much as people have tried to make a big deal about deGrom’s 2016 diminished velocity, he’s been very good in all 6 starts this season but short of dominant. He’s 3-1 with a 2.50 ERA. He’s gone 5+ innings in all 6 starts and hasn’t surrendered more than 3 runs. He can be better. We all know that because we’ve seen him at his best. He dominated the Brew Crew last season (2-0). He went 6 innings and gave up a run at Citi Field last May. In Milwaukee in June he pitched 8 scoreless with 7 Ks. This home start is a great opportunity for Jake to really put together his first super dominant outing of the season.

Game 3: Noah Syndergaard vs. Chase Anderson

Chase Anderson is a back end starter type, and the Brewers acquired him from the Diamondbacks in the January Jean Segura trade. He’s 2-5 with a 5.32 ERA. He’s been bad. Last season he faced the Mets twice and went 0-1. He went 5.2 innings and gave up one run in Milwaukee last June. In July, the Mets chased him from the Citi Field game after 4.1 innings, 8 hits and 4 runs. That being said, he dominated the Cubs in his last start going 8.2 innings and surrendering two runs. Yeah that’s not a typo. This guy shut down the Cubs. Good luck to the Mets. Notable Matchups: Juan Lagares is 3 for 5 with a home run and Lucas Duda is 1 for 5 with a home run.

Noah Syndergaard has been nothing short of Cy Young caliber in 2016. That last start against the Nationals on Tuesday was uplifting. It’s been the bright spot in this recent Mets slump-a-dump. Last year he faced the Brewers at Citi. He got the win going 6 innings, surrendering 1 run and striking out 5 Brewers. I fully expect him to dominate because he’s done nothing but that all season. You raise the expectation bar and the fans expect perfection. Thor will deliver.

Things To Look For:

What’s Hitting?: We can dominate on the mound all we want this weekend, but the team won’t win if the offense continues to be MIA. Curtis Granderson, David Wright, Michael Conforto, Lucas Duda, and Kevin Plawecki have all been horrendous lately. Even Neil Walker and Asdrubal have cooled. I don’t have answers. Just prayers and uncontrollable pessimism.

Hot Crew: The usual suspects top the Brewers hot hitter list. Ryan Braun is hitting .364 with 7 home runs. Jonathan Lucroy is hitting .304 with 6 home runs. Jonathan Villar is hitting .284 and has 13 stolen bases. He’s been a solid fantasy league starter. Aaron Hill had a crummy past couple of years in Arizona, but he’s hitting .250 with 4 bombs on the season. He’s hitting .340 in his last 15 games. First basemen Chris Carter is doing his boom or bust thing with 12 home runs and a .245 average. His 12 bombs are super impressive, but he’s hitting .179 in his last 15 games.

Kirky 3 Bombs: Captain Kirk Nieuwenhius moved out to Milwaukee, and he’s having the best couple months of his career. He’s hitting .278 with an .849 OPS. He hit the game winning two run home run against the Cubs yesterday. Baaahahaha. Kirky 3 Bombs! He’s been platooning in centerfield, and is doing everything we hoped he would one day do for the Mets. Meanwhile Alejandro De Aza took up the Kirk mantle and hits under .200 while striking out whenever he pinch hits. Sheesh. The Brewers just called up centerfielder Keon Broxton, so we will see if that impacts their regular lineup.

Future Mets: Jonathan Lucroy is dying to get out of Milwaukee. He was begging off the team in spring training. I wrote about this a while back, but if Mr. Brittlesworth Travis d’Arnaud insists on staying in California and getting rehab massages all day, then we may need to explore a trade for Lucroy.

Vindicated: Ryan Braun is such a schmuck. He’s back to killing it. Juice? Magic? Skill? Who cares. I’ll never forget how he laughed in our faces. How he insisted he was innocent of steroid use and told us all off when he got off on a technicality. He ruined that poor lab technicians life because the guy mailed his steroid filled urine sample a day late. Go to hell Braun. Definitely don’t go to the Nationals when they come around shopping for an outfield upgrade. Don’t do that.

Pentastic: The few optimistic Mets fans pointed out during Harvey’s meltdown game against the Nats, that the pen pitched 6.1 scoreless innings. Oooh great I’m so happy the pen was able to preserve that humiliating 9-1 defeat for us. But in all seriousness the pen has been tops in the league. Fantastic. Keep firing away those scoreless innings. I’m sure the pen will be full of overused blue eyed corpses by the time Harvey and the rotation hits it’s stride in the summer.

Reinforcements: Speaking of the pen, Erik Goeddel and Sean Gilmartin are in town. Rumor has it Goeddel will be activated (Soup demotion?!? No way!) if Harvey stays on the roster, and if Harvey goes on the DL then Gilmartin will join the roster.

Do People Not Boo?: So I’ve been reading non-stop that people are ashamed that Mets fans booed Harvey as he exited the field after his horrendous start against the Nationals. Now I was at this game. I heard all the booing. Are people really shocked by booing? Is this a real thing? Harvey gave up 9 runs in 2.2 innings. Is there a single park or fan base in the league that doesn’t boo their starter if he gets lit up for 9 runs in 2 innings? No way in hell. People boo. Everyone boos. People complain when they aren’t satisfied with a product or service. That’s how life works. Fans go to the game and want to see an exceptional product. Booing is the way sports fans express dissatisfaction with said product. I’m not trying to lump Matt Harvey in with Time Warner Cable or your run of the mill dog crap service provider. But whenever my internet goes out I boo my cable box. And by boo I mean smash my hand on top of it until it resets. That doesn’t mean I don’t love TV. You can be mad at Time Warner or a specific clueless cable representative when they blow it. It’s allowed. My grandmother said people used to toss tomatoes at performers at legitimate theater events. Fans and audience and members always express their problems with performers and always will. That being said, I didn’t boo at yesterday’s game because I’m better than everyone else.