Tonight, the Mets open up a four-game home series with the NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks, who cling to a two-game divisional lead and have lost six of seven. I caught up with Tom Lynch of FanSided’s Venom Strikes to get his perspective on the upcoming East Coast-West (almost) Coast matchup.
Will DeBoer, Rising Apple: The Diamondbacks are barely over .500 but in first place of a weak NL West. How tight of a grip does Arizona have over the rest of the division?
Tom Lynch, Venom Strikes: The grip they have on the division is akin to holding a wet bar of soap. They are VERY lucky to be in first place and the only reason they are is because the Dodgers were awful early and the Padres, Rockies and Giants cannot take advantage of the stumbling D’backs. Arizona is 42-39 and every other team in the division is under .500.
Jun. 21, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA: Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt hits a two run home run in the fifth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
WD: Paul Goldschmidt leads the NL in RBIs despite cooling off in June. Which is closer to the “real” Goldschmidt: the man who hit .330 through the first two months of the season or the one who hit just .262 last month?
TL: Goldschmidt is more like the guy that hit .330 the first two months. I attribute his downturn in June to the fact that the rest of the lineup didn’t help him throughout the month. He still leads the National League in RBIs which amazing considering how wretched the team was at times. That will change in the second half as Aaron Hill is back after being out for ten weeks and Miguel Montero has heated up.
TL: I’ll start out by saying I hated the Justin Upton trade. A 25-year old outfielder under club control for an additional three years with excellent production should not have been dumped on the way he was. That being said, the outfield has been a mixed bag this season. Gerardo Parra should return to Queens in two weeks for the All-Star game as he has been the best player in the everyday lineup not named Paul Goldschmidt. Jason Kubel and Cody Ross have been hurt at times and their production has not been what the team was expecting. A.J. Pollock has been a nice surprise; he was among the league leaders in doubles for a period of time.
Jun 27, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Patrick Corbin (46) throws during the sixth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
TL: I think the best way to beat Corbin is to take him out of his rhythm. He works quickly so hitters should maybe step out of the box once or twice during an at-bat. Although the strikeout-to-walk ratio is almost 3:1, he does have bouts of wildness. He has walked three or more batters in a game in five of sixteen starts. Of course, he has issued only one free pass or less in seven starts as well. Bottom line: if you want to beat him, order him room service and have the server put Pepto Bismol in his soup.
WD: How is the Phoenix fanbase taking a liking to Heath Bell, a Mets punching bag of years past?
TL: Heath Bell seems to be one unpopular guy with fans from other teams. I did a Q&A with Ehsan Kassim at Marlin Maniac and he also had a “Heath Bell stinks”-type question. While he has made fans nervous when entering games and the numbers really aren’t good (2-1, 4.70 ERA, 38 hits and 10 walks in 30 innings) he did save 14 games while J.J. Putz was on the disabled list. He will be a valuable (and nerve-wracking) man in the bullpen as the season progresses even if his role may change once or twice more. I think he will be better than people think and lower that ERA by half a run. And he will get David Wright to ground into an inning-ending double play at some point this series.
Weather permitting, tonight’s series opener will start at 7:10 EDT, with New York’s Shaun Marcum going up against Arizona’s Wade Miley. For my perspective on the series, visit the Venom Strikes series preview. You can read more of New York native Tom Lynch’s analysis here.