Series Preview: New York Mets @ Arizona Diamondbacks

Before the Mets started their homestand against the Dodgers last weekend, I said that New York was limping home after their 1-5 roadtrip. It turns out, it could actually get worse, as they went 0-for-the-homestand, losing all six games for the first time since 2002. Now, they embark on an 11-game road trip through the West Coast, where they could either come back to life, or be buried for good until 2013.

How they’re performing:

The Mets are sporting their worst record of the season at 47-51. They are 11.5 games behind the Nationals for first place in the NL East and 7 games back in the Wild Card. David Wright (.340/.430/.566), Ruben Tejada (.310/.355/.375) and Daniel Murphy (.305/.342/.432) have been doing their best to kick the offense in high gear, but it just hasn’t been working. Jordany Valdespin has seen his average creep up near .300 with a strong week, but against the Nationals, he’s really been the only contributor. The starting pitching has been decimated with Johan Santana joining Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee on the disabled list, and the bullpen has been doing what they can, but late game meltdowns from Pedro Beato and Ramon Ramirezhaven’t helped New York’s relievers gain any more confidence.

July 24, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets rookie pitcher Matt Harvey (33) talks with manager Terry Collins (10) during batting practice before a game against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field. Harvey is scheduled to make his first major league start on Thursday against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Arizona. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

After a tough start to 2012 following a great year last season, Kirk Gibson’s club has gotten hot of late; their loss last night to the Colorado Rockies puts them back at 49-49 on the season, but they are 7-3 in their last ten games, and find themselves 6 games out in the NL West and only 5 games out in the NL Wild Card. Aaron Hill (.304 BA) and Willie Blooquist (.301 BA) are hitting over .300, and Jason Kubel has been providing all the power, as he leads the club with 22 home runs and 72 RBI. Justin Upton has been struggling this season (.272/.365/.407) and has only accumulated 8 homers and 41 RBI so far. The pitching of the Dbacks have helped them get back in the race; the starters have been putting together fine seasons, while the bullpen is doing a great job as well. JJ Putz has converted 18 saves in 21 chances, and Brad Ziegler, David Hernandez, and Craig Breslow have appeared in 38 or more games while having an ERA under 3.00.

Probable pitching matchups:

Matt Harvey (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Wade Miley (11-5, 3.02 ERA)

Tonight will be a special night for Matt Harvey, as he makes his MLB debut for the Mets in this series opener. He went 7-5 with a 3.68 ERA in 20 starts for Triple-A Buffalo. Meanwhile, Wade Miley is having an outstanding season, as he’s already secured the Arizona rookie record for most wins. He’s especially been good at home, where he’s enjoying a 7-2 record and a 2.55 ERA.

Jonathon Niese (7-4, 3.59 ERA) vs. Josh Collmenter (2-2, 3.82 ERA)

Niese has been the most consistent Mets starter since returning from the All-Star break, as he’s looking to increase his current quality starts streak to three. The southpaw has been more stingy on the road than at home, as his 3.10 road ERA is almost a full run lower than what he’s done at Citi Field this year. Niese is also generating 1.90 ground balls for every fly out on the road. Josh Collmenter is another Dback starter that had a breakout year in 2011, but has struggled this year. He’s picked it up of late, posting a 1.51 ERA in his last 15 appearances, four of which have been starts.

Chris Young (2-4, 3.91 ERA) vs. Ian Kennedy (8-8, 4.20 ERA)

Young was masterful in his 7-inning outing against the Nationals this week, as he didn’t allow a hit after the first inning. The key for Young is to be precise with his pitchers and keep runners off the bases. He has a 0.32 ERA with the bases empty, but once runner get into scoring position, it sky rockets to 12.00. Ian Kennedy enjoyed a breakout season last year with a 20-win campaign, but hasn’t shown the same dominance he did a year ago. However, he’s been the Ian of old lately, allowing three runs over his last 16 innings. The biggest reason for Kennedy’s inconsistency is his inability to retire the side; he has a 7.24 ERA with two outs in 2012.

R.A. Dickey (13-2, 2.97 ERA) vs. Joe Saunders (5-6, 3.51 ERA)

In his last start, Dickey lost his first decision since he dropped a game to the Braves way back on April 18th. He’s looking to get back to the form he had in May and June, where he went 9-0 with an ERA around 1.50. So far in July, he’s 1-1 with a 6.49 ERA and 1.67 WHIP. The knuckleballer has also been given up a lot of hits, and to return to his All-Star form, he needs to improve upon his 4.01 ERA with two outs. Joe Saunders is currently enjoying a streak of six straight straights of pitching 6+ innings. Three of those starts have been since his most recent return from the DL, sporting a 3.79 ERA during that time. Even though his home ERA is more than two runs higher than his road ERA, Saunders has won four of his five decision in Phoenix.

Who’s Hot:

It’s hard to find a player that’s hot amid a six-game losing streak, but Jordany Valdespin has shown his flare for the dramatic all season, and it’s starting to earn him some more playing time. With Lucas Dudain Triple-A for the time being, ‘Spin will be getting more reps

Jul. 21, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks batter Jason Kubel (13) hits a home run in the fourth inning against Houston Astros at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Hilderbrand-US PRESSWIRE

in the outfield to insert his bat into the lineup. In his last 10 games, he’s hitting .400 with 3 home runs and 8 RBI. He’s a bit of a free swinger (2 BB in 96 AB), but he’s one of the few injecting some life into the Mets, so Terry Collins needs to ride that wave.

Jason Kubel has been red hot over the last week and a half, as he’s been hitting .333 with 7 home runs and 12 RBI. July has been his best month of the season, as he’s slugging a ridiculous .891 in 18 games. Kubel also enjoys hitting at home where he has a .333 batting average and has hit 17 of his 22 homers while driving in 52 of his 72 RBI as well.

Who’s Not:

Oh so many choices here for the Mets. After Andres Torres started the second half strong, he’s gone absolutely ice cold at the plate. He hasn’t gotten a hit since July 19th in Washington and is hitting .207 in his last ten games, including 2 RBI. His numbers are slightly better on the road this year, hitting .221/.343/.310. So, maybe he can show Collins something over this weekend.

Paul Goldschmidt has been struggling of late, as he’s hit .205 in his last 10 games, including only 1 homer and 4 RBI. The young first baseman has seen his average dip 16 points during this time span, but he has erased his terrible month of April (.193/.288/.281). He could have a tough time getting healthy against the Mets since they will be throwing three right-handers in this four game set. Goldschmidt is hitting .245/.313/.396 against righties this year, compared to .369/.437/.767 against southpaws.

This series will help determine whether Terry Collins’ yelling after yesterday’s loss against the Nationals was successful or not….Let’s go Mets!

 

Topics: Chris Young, Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Ian Kennedy, Jason Kubel, Jonathon Niese, Jordany Valdespin, Josh Collmenter, Justin Upton, Matt Harvey, Mets Diamondbacks, Mets Series Preview, Paul Goldschmidt, R.A. Dickey, Ruben Tejada, Series Preview, Wade Miley

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