July 14, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp (27) reacts after right fielder Andre Ethier (16) hits a two run home run in the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Series Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers @ New York Mets


The Mets return home to Citi Field for their first home stand since before the All-Star break, and thanks to R.A. Dickey and David Wright, their six-game losing streak is just a memory now, although it’s not all that distant. They welcome in the Dodgers for a three-game set, fresh from an off-day used to travel to the East Coast from LA. New York took three of four from the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine earlier this year, but it will be a much different series now that Don Mattingly has both Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier back in the lineup.

How they’re performing:

After a fast start in 2012, the Dodgers have cooled off considerably. They are looking up to the Giants in the NL West, with their 49-44 record 2.5 games behind San Francisco. They won their last game against the Phillies in walk-off fashion thanks to Kemp, but they are 3-7 in their last 10 games, and not happy to be away from home, sporting a 20-24 road record. As I said before, the offense has been happy to see Kemp (.354/.431/.688) and Ethier (.295/.361/.492) back in the lineup. Jerry Hairston (.291 BA in 189 ABs) is enjoying a good year, as his hot bat has put him in the lineup on a more consistent basis. Despite both going on the DL, Kemp (13 HR) and Ethier (11 HR) are the only hitters to have double-digit home run numbers, while Ethier’s 59 RBI also lead the squad. The pitching staff has taken a hit with Chad Billingsley going on the DL with elbow issues, but Clayton Kershaw (2.74 ERA, 1.05 WHIP) is doing his best to pick up the slack. Mattingly’s bullpen has three pitchers (Kenley Jansen, Ronald Belisario, and Scott Elbert) with over 30 appearances and under a 2.00 ERA.

Meanwhile, the Mets used the solid pitching of R.A. Dickey to avoid the sweep in Washington, bringing their season record to 47-45, now 7 games behind the

Jul 19, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets first baseman Ike Davis (29) is congratulated by second baseman Justin Turner (2) after hitting a solo homer against the Washington Nationals during the second inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE

Nats, but 3.5 behind the second Wild Card spot. New York is ready for some home cookin’, as they’ve gone 26-20 at home this year. David Wright continues to lead the team in virtually every offensive category. I mean, it’s hard to agrue with .353/.443/.586 coupled with 14 homers and 65 RBI. Ike Davis is tied with Wright for the team lead in homers and his 52 RBI are second, making his .206/.277/.402 all the more impressive. The hot hitting of Ruben Tejada (.319 BA) and return of Daniel Murphy‘s consistency (.289 BA) have helped give Wright some support. After a dreadful series in Atlanta, Chris Young, Jonathon Niese, and R.A. Dickey all delievered solid starting pitching, but it was the bullpen that disappointed again, with the one bright spot being the performance of Josh Edgin.

Probable pitching match-ups:

Aaron Harang (6-5, 3.53 ERA) vs. Johan Santana (6-6, 3.59 ERA)

This is a matchup of pitchers with similar numbers, but those who have taken different routes to get there. After losing to the Mets in LA, Harang has put together two solid starts, notching a win. He’s thrown 14 innings in those two starts, given up only 4 runs and struck out 9 hitters. However, he’s struggled in 10 road starts (4.09 ERA, 1.60 WHIP). On the other hand, Santana has pitched terribly since his masterpiece in LA. In 9.2 innings, he’s allowed 21 hits and 13 earned runs. Not the Johan we’ve grown to know and love.

Chris Capuano (9-5, 2.75 ERA) vs. Miguel Batista (1-2, 4.33 ERA)

Cappy has been having a great year, but is currently on a four-start winless streak, including three losses, started by a defeat at the hands of the Mets in their last meeting. New York has a propensity to score with two outs, and that’s something Capuano will have to try and prevent, although his 5.05 ERA with two outs this season suggests that may be a problem. Batista is making the start in place of the injured Dillon Gee, allowing Matt Harvey to start more games in Triple-A. The pressure is on Batista to perform, especially after lackluster relief appearances this week. Some people feel that if he struggles, Harvey will be making the start the next time the rotation turns over in Arizona…we shall see.

Nathan Eovaldi (1-6, 4.33 ERA) vs. Jonathon Niese (7-4, 3.58 ERA)

Eoaldi did earn his first win of the year in his first start after facing the Mets, but is coming off a loss to the Phillies, and is hoping to improve upon his daytime resume. He currently stands at 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA and 1.55 WHIP without the lights on. However, after a dreadful June (0-4 record, 5.03 ERA) he’s gotten back on track (1-1, 3.27). Niese should have come away with a win after his start in D.C., but it wasn’t meant to be. On the contrary from Eovaldi, Niese tears up his starts during the day (4-1 record, 2.73 ERA, 1.08 WHIP). He’s hoping to earn a second straight quality start after allowing one run over seven innings to the Nats.

Who’s hot:

Since returning from the disabled list after the All-Star break, Matt Kemp is hitting .347 with three multi-hit games. On getaway day in LA, Kemp drove in the tying run against the Phillies in the 10th inning, then sent everyone home with a walk-off two-run home run. New York is throwing two lefties in this series,

which Kemp feasts off of at a rate of .477/.558/.932. The key in the series opener and finale for Mets southpaws will be to keep the Dodgers center fielder off the bases, and I’m sure Batista wouldn’t mind doing the same for good measure.

Andres Torres‘ bat is finally starting to heat up again, as he’s hit .333 in his last ten games, thanks to a current six-game hitting streak (including three multi-hit games). In his 32 at-bats in July, he’s easily enjoying his best month of the season (.344/.382/.406). I mean, I would say that David Wright is hot right now (.375 BA in his last 10 games), but he’s been doing that so much this year, that it’s starting to become routine.

Who’s not:

As trade talks whip around as we inch toward the deadline, Los Angeles is in the market for a third baseman, and with good reason. Juan Uribe has been having an atrocious year so far (.187/..240/.266), one that would make Ike Davis blush. Don Mattingly has been standing by his struggling player, but it gets hard when they have gone 1-for-their-last-19. His performance has increasingly gotten worse as the year progresses, starting with a .267 average in April, and going down each month to his current .059 July batting average.

Scott Hairston has found himself getting more playing time with struggling players such as Jason Bay and Lucas Duda, but more at-bats isn’t giving Terry Collins better results. The right-handed hitter is hitting .226 in his last 10 games, driving in only two runs and striking out seven times against one walk. However, unlike most Mets players, he’s hit the majority of his home runs (7 of 12) in the friendly confines of Citi Field.

This is another big series for the Mets as they need to get on a roll before they welcome in the Nats again…let’s go Mets!

Tags: Aaron Harang Andre Ethier Andres Torres Chris Capuano Davi D Wright Dodgers @ Mets Ike Davis Johan Santana Matt Kemp Matt Musico Mets Series Preview New York Mets Rising Apple Scott Hairston Series Preview