Aug 12, 2012; Flushing, NY,USA; New York Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen (59) visits starting pitcher Jonathon Niese (49) during the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

Series Preview: New York Mets @ Cincinnati Reds

The Mets enjoyed an off day yesterday as they left New York for the week to take on two first place teams. Their first stop is in Cincinnati to take on the Reds at the Great American Ballpark. The most recent home stand wasn’t the best, but I suppose if you’re looking at the glass half full, a 2-4 home stand is better than the 0-6 one from a couple weeks ago. New York is currently sitting at 55-60, well out of first place in the NL East, and teetering on having a double-digit deficit in the Wild Card race.

How the opposition is doing:

The Reds have been doing all they can to continue their success without Joey Votto (.342/.465/.604) in the lineup, and they’re doing a pretty good job. Despite going 5-5 in their last 10 games, Cincy just swept the division rival Cubs right out of Wrigley, improving their season record to 69-46, building up a healthy lead over Andrew McCutchen and the Pirates in the NL Central. In Votto’s absence, Brandon Phillips (.296/.334/.453) has been filling the whole in leading the offense, as well as Todd Frazier (.280 BA) in a part-time role. The Reds have a few all-or-nothing kind of hitters, such as Jay Bruce (.243 BA, 22 HR) and Drew Stubbs (.228 BA, 14 HR), but it’s clearly working in Dusty Baker’s lineup. Bruce leads the charge in round trippers, but Ryan Ludwick has played himself into a significant job with Cincinnati, with 21 home runs on the season.

Aug 8, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Cincinnati Reds pitcher Jonathan Broxton (50) during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE

The Reds pitching staff has been an integral part to their success in 2012; when Ryan Madson went down in Spring Training, there was concern, but the ‘pen holds a 2.66 ERA, and Aroldis Chapman (28 saves, 1.26 ERA, 106 Ks in 57 IP) has more than solved the problem. Jose Arredondo, Sean Marshall, and now the addition of Jonathan Broxton at the trade deadline only strengthens what was already a strength for the Reds. On the starting staff, there are three pitchers with ten or more wins (Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, and Homer Bailey), as Cueto is putting together a year worthy of Cy Young consideration (15-6, 2.45 ERA, 1.16 WHIP).

Probable pitching match-ups:

Chris Young (3-6, 4.87 ERA) vs. Mat Latos (10-3, 3.81 ERA)

Young has been rather inconsistent since he returned to the Mets from his shoulder surgery in June. Most recently, two of his last three starts have included six or more earned runs surrendered in less than five innings pitched. He’s hoping he can get back on track while on the road as he looks for his fourth win of the year. Since a strong start in June (2-1, 3.30 ERA), Young is 1-5 with a 6.18 ERA. Ouch. Meanwhile, Mat Latos has put together a fine season after being traded to Cincy from San Diego in the off-season. He’s thrown at least seven innings and given up two runs or less in his last three starts, and he’s only lost one game since April, while going 3-1 with a 2.92 ERA since the All-Star break.

R.A. Dickey (15-3, 2.72 ERA) vs. Mike Leake (4-7, 4.51 ERA)

The Mets knuckleballer is at it again; no, it’s not the scoreless inning streak in the first half, but Dickey has put together three consecutive strong starts, earning his fourth complete game of the year in his last start. In the past five starts (36.1 IP), the knuckleball has been dancing a little extra, as he’s retired 39 hitters by way of the strikeout. Out of all the Reds starters, Mike Leake seems to be the most inconsistent, and even though he’s in front of the home fans, he’d much rather be pitching on the road (3-3, 3.13 ERA) than at home (1-4, 6.03 ERA).

Matt Harvey (1-3, 3.63 ERA) vs. Homer Bailey (10-7, 4.08 ERA)

It’s pretty clear that Matt Harvey’s stuff can be unhittable at times; outside of an early mistake to Jason Heyward last Friday, he was spectacular, despite getting the loss. He’s been able to continue striking hitters out at a high rate (26 K’s in 22.1 IP), but he needs to cut down on the number of walks he surrenders. In his previous start against the Braves, he handed out a season-high five free passes, and has walked 12 in his four starts with New York. Although he earned the win in his last start against the Cubs, Homer Bailey needs to figure out what’s going on. In his last three starts (14 IP), he’s allowed 27 hits and 14 earned runs. He’s also not happy to be home, as his home ERA (5.35) is much higher than his road ERA (2.92).

For the Mets to win this series, they need to:

Score consistently. Period. The second half has been a time a extreme inconsistency for the Mets, where they will explode for nine runs one day, then get shut out the day after. David Wright and Ike Davis need to drive in Ruben Tejada, who is continuing to get on base night in and

night out. They are fortunate to not face Cueto, while Leake and Bailey are two of their weaker pitchers at this time. So, the Amazins need to score early and score enough runs to get a cushion so they don’t have to pressure themselves into getting runs off their great bullpen.

On the flip side, the Mets bullpen (4.96 ERA) needs to not do what they did Sunday night. Josh Edgin and Frank Francisco need to get back on track quickly because the Great American Ballpark doesn’t allow opposing pitchers (or home pitchers for that matter) to have momentary mental lapses and get away with it.

This is the start of an important road trip for New York to gain some momentum against Cincinnati as well as the Nationals…let’s go Mets!

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Tags: Aroldis Chapman Brandon Phillips Chris Young David Wright Homer Bailey Ike Davis Joey Votto Jonathan Broxton Mat Latos Matt Harvey Matt Musico Mets Series Preview Mike Leake New York Mets R.A. Dickey Rising Apple Ruben Tejada Sean Marshall Series Preview Todd Frazier

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