Cheer up Mets fans, LeBron might not be coming to New York but the Braves are!
Before MLB takes a mini-vacation for the All-Star celebrations, the Mets and Braves will battle in Citi Field with implications that bring back memories of the Mike Piazza days. Indeed it feels like this season may be bringing back the rivalry from the late 90′s/early 2000′s and really, can anyone complain? — Unless, of course, the Mets miss the playoffs.
This series could be a huge one for the Mets. As of now, New York leads in the NL Wild Card race. If they sweep this weekend, they will be tied for first place heading into the All-Star break which I think all of us would have signed up for at the start of the season. If they get swept, there’s a possibility they could be in third place.
The good news is, like the Mets, Atlanta has found much of their success at Turner Field where they are 30-10 so the Mets hold a distinct home-field advantage for this series. We all know by now Citi Field has helped the pitching staff, but the Mets sport some pretty impressive offensive numbers at home as well. Met hitters are batting .271 with a .343 OBP, .763 OPS, 202 runs, 75 doubles, and 17 triples at Citi.
The pitching matchups are as follows: Tommy Hanson vs. RA Dickey tonight, Tim Hudson vs. Mike Pelfrey Saturday and Derek Lowe vs. Johan Santana on Sunday.
On the surface, it looks like Tommy Hanson is struggling in his sophomore campaign. But don’t let his 4.19 ERA fool you; his 3.37 FIP and 9.12 K/9 say that he’s faring much better than you think. The problem for Hanson has been the walks, as he averages 3.07 base-on-balls per 9 innings. It should be an interesting matchup to see the young flamethrower face off against the revitalized knuckleballer, much like last weekend with Strasburg.
Mike Pelfrey takes the mound Saturday, which lately has not been a good thing. Many fans have been referring to Pelfrey as an All-Star snub, but I’m not one of them. He has allowed 4 or more earned runs in 3 of his last 4 starts, and failed to get out of the 5th inning in his last two starts. The problem may lie in the fact that Big Pelf has lost the ability to get outs on the ground as of late. Going back to his start against the Padres on June 8, Pelfrey has gotten 76 fly ball outs while getting 65 outs via the ground ball, 11 less. Also, going back to that same date, Pelfrey has allowed more fly ball outs than ground ball outs in every game except June 30 in Puerto Rico, when he got 11 outs on the ground and 11 in the air. This is not good news for a pitcher who has been referred to as a ground ball pitcher since the day he was drafted.
As for Pelfrey’s counterpart on Saturday, Tim Hudson has had practically the opposite season of Tommy Hanson. His 2.44 and 8-4 record suggest he’s having a great season, but his 4.29 FIP and 4.16 xFIP say he’s been getting help from his defense. Hudson’s K/9 is also only at 4.57, down from his career mark of 6.04. Much of Timmy’s success this season has come from a .234 BABIP, so don’t be surprised if we see a second half regression from him.
On the flip side, don’t be surprised if we see a Johan Santana resurgance in the second half. He is well documented as an extraordinary second half pitcher as it is, and his last two starts suggest that may still be the case. The biggest thing to be highly encouraged by in Santana’s last two starts are the strikeouts, as he’s K’d 12 batters in 16 innings.
There’s a lot at stake here for a series in July and Citi field will definitely be rocking. Let’s go Mets!