Series Preview: Houston Astros @ New York Mets

Being the optimistic Mets fan that I am, I feel like every new series is a clean slate for this team, but it’s been hard to think good thoughts after watching each night. Despite facing the Rockies, who own the worst-performing pitching staff in the league, only allowed the Mets to score five runs, while sweeping the four game set.

How the opposition is doing:

It’s been another tough year for the Astros organization; with new leadership in the owner’s box and front office, the rebuilding phase of this process is in full swing down at Minute Maid Park. They own the league’s worst record, currently standing at 39-86, and while they’ve lost nine of their last ten games, seven of those losses have come consecutively. Manager Brad Mills recently got fired, allowing Tony DeFrancesco to become the skipper for the rest of the season, getting his first taste of Big League managing after 17 years in the minors.

August 22, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; Houston Astros catcher Chris Snyder (18) is congratulated by Astros manager Tony DeFrancesco after hitting a home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the third inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

Jose Altuve, the lone All-Star representative for Houston this summer, has been leading a struggling offense, as he’s hitting .304/.356/.420 this season. Even though he hasn’t been on the team since early in the season, Carlos Lee still owns on of the top-5 batting averages of the team, as he’s sporting a .287 mark before he was traded to Miami. Although Jed Lowrie is currently on the DL, he holds the team lead with 14 home runs, but J.D. Martinez is setting the pace with 54 RBI.

The one place where Houston had depth was the pitching staff, but that went to the wayside when they dealt Brandon Lyon, Brett Myers, and Wandy Rodriguez. However, in the trade for Lyon, the ‘Stros got J.A. Happ in return, hoping he’ll be able to build upon his 7-9 record and 4.85 ERA from this year to turn into a dependable starter. Bud Norris leads the staff with 130 strikeouts, and Lucas Harrell leads the way with 151.1 innings pitched.

Probable pitching match-ups:

Jordan Lyles (2-10, 5.70 ERA) vs. Jonathon Niese (10-6, 3.49 ERA)

It’s been an up-and-down season for Lyles, who is the youngest starting pitcher in the Majors. The young hurler has had a hard time specifically on the road, sporting a 0-6 record to go along with his 7.58 ERA and 1.83 WHIP. He’s also lost five of his seven starts since returning from the All-Star break. As he gains more experience, he’ll learn to finish hitters when he’s ahead in the count, as he currently has 5.60 ERA in that situation in 2012. Niese is looking for his third-straight quality start as he is seen as the #2 man in the rotation with Johan Santana done for the year. The southpaw is currently enjoying his best month of the year, as he’s 3-1 with a 1.91 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in August.

TBD vs. R.A. Dickey (15-4, 2.82 ERA)

While the Astros have not officially announced who will be taking the mound tomorrow afternoon just yet, Terry Collins knows who will be for the Mets. Dickey continues to be the lone pitcher in the New York rotation to toe the slab every fifth day, and he will hope for some more run support than his last outing, where he held the Rockies to one run on three hits in seven innings, yet got the no-decision. He hasn’t had a losing month yet this season, and he looks to keep that streak alive tomorrow afternoon, as he currently has a 1-2 August record, despite a 2.79 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.

Lucas Harrell (10-9, 4.04 ERA) vs. Jeremy Hefner (2-5, 5.11 ERA)

Despite all of the losing the Astros have done, one of the few bright spots has been Lucas Harrell. He allowed six earned runs in a loss his last time to the mound, but before that, the young right-hander gave up two or less earned runs in his last seven starts. Most of his success has happened in the second half; before the All-Star break, he as 7-6 with a 4.56 ERA. Since coming back from his mid-summer vacation, he’s 3-3 with a 2.96 ERA, while striking out 41 hitters in 48.2 innings pitched. Jeremy Hefner’s return to the rotation didn’t go as planned, as the Nationals roughed him up for five runs in his last start. He will be back from paternity leave, hoping to get back on track as the six-man rotation continues to exist without Johan Santana.

The Mets will win this series if:

They actually decide to score some runs. Against the Rockies, who has the worst pitching staff by a large margin, they scored five runs in four games. The Astros have the third worst pitching staff in baseball, boasting a 4.80 ERA; so, for the Mets to have a chance at taking this three-game set, they must get hits with runners in scoring position.

Also, the bullpen must keep Houston from scoring runs late in the game, which on paper, shouldn’t be all that hard. The Astros are among the league’s worst in batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage (.239/.306/.372). Although the offense didn’t produce against the Rockies, the bullpen didn’t hold the opposition scoreless either.

Let’s see if the Mets can come back and beat a team that on paper, they really should beat…Let’s go Mets!

Topics: David Wright, JA Happ, Jeremy Hefner, Jonathon Niese, Mets Series Preview, New York Mets, R.A. Dickey

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