The Mets head to St. Louis for their last stop in what is a three-city road trip before they head back to New York. This is the first time these two teams have met since Johan Santana threw his historic no-hitter, while the Amazins then took three of four from Mike Matheny‘s club. Despite a horrible start to the second half, the Mets are enjoying their most productive stretch since the All-Star game, as they’re 7-3 in their last 10 games, and currently stand at 64-70 on the year. With the second Wild Card spot in play this season, they’re now 8 games back of the Cardinals, who just so happen to be occupying the second and final spot.
How the opposition is doing:
St. Louis has been struggling of late, as they’ve just dropped three of four to the Nationals in D.C., and are 4-6 in their last ten games. As I just said, they currently hold the second NL Wild Card spot with a 72-62 record. The defending World Series champions are 9.5 games behind the NL Central leading Cincinnati Reds, so realistically speaking, they are shooting for a playoff berth by way of the Wild Card. However, after the deficit they erased last season, you can’t count them out of anything.
In their first season without Albert Pujols since 1999, the offense has done a good job of filling the hole he left when he decided to sign with the Angels. Their lineup boasts six hitters with a .300 or better average (Yadier Molina, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday, and David Freese). Yadier Molina leads the way with his .322 average, but their balance throughout the lineup is shown in their statistics, as Jon Jay leads the squad with a .391 OBP and Allen Craig’s .556 slug% is everyone else is chasing after. The Cards have three 20 home run guys, with Carlos Beltran‘s 28 round-trippers setting the pace. However, Matt Holliday’s 92 RBI is the high water mark.
In his first full season being closer, Jason Motte (2.83 ERA, 32/37 SVO, 57.1 IP) has done a great job securing the back end of the bullpen, while Kyle Loshe (14-2, 2.81 ERA) has been leading the way in the rotation. His presence has been huge, as Chris Carpenter‘s injury has kept him off the field all year. Mitchell Boggs has the lowest ERA, as he owns a 1.90 mark in 64 appearances this season. Loshe’s 179.2 innings pitched are most on the team, but Adam Wainwright (13-11, 3.93 ERA) has had a great comeback year and has the most strikeouts (159) on the staff.
Probable pitching match-ups:
He only has one MLB start under his belt thus far, but it was a good one for Collin McHugh. He will re-join the team today for the first time since he held the Rockies scoreless over 7 innings while striking out 9 hitters a couple weeks ago. The young righty has also played for Binghamton and Buffalo this season, and has put together a 7-9 record, 2.91 ERA, 1.14 WHIP in 25 starts, spanning 148.1 innings pitched. Joe Kelly struggled in his last start against Pittsburgh, giving up 5 runs in 5 innings. There are whispers that if he struggles again, he may be taken out of the rotation. After posting a 1-1 record and 2.70 ERA in the first half, Kelly has gone 3-5 with a 4.22 ERA since the All-Star break.
Although he has two or three starts left before he’s shut down for the season, Matt Harvey has found his grove in the Majors over his last three turns through the rotation, as he owns a 1.80 ERA with 23 strikeouts and 5 walks in his last 20 innings. Harvey continues to show his dominant stuff to opposing hitters; he has a 1.65 ERA when he’s ahead in the count, while still owns an equally terrifying 1.86 mark when he’s behind. Garcia is still trying to find himself as he returns from an injury; after he struck out 10 Pirate hitters in 8 innings in his first start coming off the DL, he’s allowed 10 runs and 18 hits in his last 11.1 innings pitched.
R.A. Dickey (17-4, 2.63 ERA) vs. Adam Wainwright (13-11, 3.93 ERA)
The prime time match-up of the series happens in the finale, as R.A. Dickey looks for win #18 after coming off his fifth complete game of the season. Since he lost to the Reds in Cincinnati, the knuckleballer has gone 2-0 in his last three starts, allowing 2 runs on 13 hits in 23 innings, while striking out 15 batters. Meanwhile, Adam Wainwright had a hiccup in his last start, going 2.2 innings against Washington, the shortest outing of his career. Before this outing, the righty had won his last five starts, striking out 33 hitters in 36.2 innings pitched. He’s coming off his best month of the season, going 5-1 with a 2.76 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.
The Mets will win this series if:
The bullpen can continue pitching well. Before Ramon Ramirez gave up a run Saturday night, the ‘pen was enjoying a 16.1 inning scoreless streak. However, a group of four relievers started a new streak yesterday, as something that has been a glaring weakness for the Mets this season is currently a strength, as they’ve given up just that one run in their last 22.1 innings. According to Adam Rubin, New York is 22-56 when relievers allow a run, and the ‘pen is 15-25 with a 4.83 ERA on the season.
Score early and score often. That strategy worked against the Marlins as they were able to score runs in bunches, and they’ll have the opportunity to do it against some struggling Cardinal pitching. Each of the starters they’re facing are coming off a sub-par outing, so now is the time to kick them while they’re down.
Let’s see if the Amazins can continue their hottest streak of the second half…Let’s go Mets!