The New York Mets begin a five-game homestand tonight that features matchups against the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers in a week full of interleague action.
The Astros and Rangers are the two teams in Major League Baseball that hail from the state of Texas, and they happen to be the top two teams in the American League West, with the Astros at 45-27 holding a 10 game lead over the 35-37 Rangers. So the Mets will have their challenges
The Mets saw the punishing power of the Houston Astros last week and will look to return the favor at Citi Field between tonight and tomorrow.
The Astros showed the Mets why they have won three American League pennants in the past five years (one with an asterisk next to it to many fans, probably) by dominating the Mets in a two-game set last week at Minute Maid Park, in which the Astros outscored the Mets 13-5.
This brief series marks the Astros' first trip to Citi Field since 2014, and the first time Mets fans can show Jose Altuve and some of the Astros players how they feel about their sign-stealing cheating scandal that rocked baseball two years ago.
Nonetheless, the Astros are World Series contenders yet again. This time, their offense is led by Altuve, Kyle Tucker, and Yordan Alvarez. Altuve is batting .275 with 15 home runs, including one off Trevor Williams last Tuesday in Houston. Tucker is hitting .254 with 14 homers, 48 RBI's. Alvarez is considered by some analytical measures as the best hitter in baseball. The Mets got a huge dose of it in their meetings last week, as the 25-year old slugger crushed three of his 22 home runs on the season against the Mets last week.
Framber Valdez takes the hill tonight, where he is off to a great start, as he has a 7-3 record with a 2.90 ERA in 87 innings pitched this season. He will face off against Carlos Carrasco, who will look to bounce back from a rough outing last week against this same Houston lineup. Carrasco gave up three home runs and five earned runs in a loss.
The Mets will then see future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander in tomorrow's matinee outing. Verlander is one of the feel-good stories across baseball this year, dominating off Tommy John surgery at age 39 just three years after winning the Cy Young in the American League. Verlander is 9-3 with a 2.22 ERA this season. Taijuan Walker will oppose Verlander for New York tomorrow.
The Mets will then entertain the Texas Rangers for a three-game series starting on Friday night, a team that has its interesting strengths.
In 2021, the Rangers had the worst offense. But they were expected to be an interesting team this year after spending big bucks this offseason, as they brought in All-Stars Corey Seager and Marcus Semien on contracts that were worth a combined $500 million in late November before the lockout began.
Seager has been unlucky to start the season, as his batting average in balls in play is just .230. But otherwise, he's had a strong start to the season, hitting 15 home runs while ranking in the top quartile in expected slugging percentage, and expected batting average. So he is due for his averages to correct itself to how he's been hitting. Seager inked a 10-year, $325 million deal with Texas prior to the lockout.
Semien got off to a miserable start, not hitting his first home run with the Rangers until May 28. Semien, who signed a 7-year, $175 million deal before the lockout, has moderated since. In his last 31 games, he has batted .281 with 7 home runs and 18 RBI's. His season has been similar to Francisco Lindor's struggle of a campaign last year.
The Rangers only have one lock to be on the American League All-Star team right now, and that is their ace Martin Perez, who has been fabulous this season as he has resurrected his career in the place where he spent his first seven big league seasons. In 93.1 innings pitched, he is 6-2, with a 2.22 ERA. The Mets will likely face Perez either on Saturday or Sunday.
Elsewhere, the Rangers best hitters have been outfielder Adolis Garcia and first baseman Nathaniel Lowe. Garcia has 15 home runs, 48 RBI's, and a .255 average, while Lowe is batting .284 with 10 homers and 32 RBI's. The Rangers have also been the most aggressive base stealing team in the league, and their 61 stolen bags leads the majors.
Their bullpen has also been strong, with a great crop of relievers in Dennis Santana, Brock Burke, Matt Moore, and closer Joe Barlow. These four relievers have a combined 1.90 ERA in 123 innings pitched between them.