Quick Preview: Mets vs. Reds
The last time the Mets and Reds faced each other was the first three games of the year. The Mets came out of it 2-1, brimming with confidence, and seemingly on their way to making a serious run at the NL East crown.
How times have changed.
Since then, the Mets have suffered injuries, curled into the fetal position, and are waiting to be put out of their misery. Meanwhile, the Reds have played a fairly even season, and if it weren’t for a bizarre string of four straight losses to the Royals and Nationals in June, they’d be right in the thick of things at the top of the NL Central. Though they’re sitting in fifth place, they’re far from out of it, only 4.5 games out of first and maybe one player or hot streak away from making a serious run.
Interestingly, the Mets are in a similar position in the NL East — fourth place and 5.5 games out — but they’ve all but thrown in the towel. It’s all about perspective, I guess.
With both teams in similar places, this last series before the break holds significant importance. One of the teams will head in with at least two losses, and, depending on what happens with their division leaders, those two losses could be the first nails in the coffin.
Game 1: Fernando Nieve (3-2,2.73 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (8-8, 5.85 ERA)
Fernando fell back to earth in his last two starts, but I have to say I still like what he brings to the table — when he can bring it, that is. If Nieve can throw that hard sinker for strikes, and complement it by getting one of his other off-speed pitches over the plate the majority of the time, he can win. Unfortunately, his lack of command has been his undoing. Arroyo is having a tough year, but is the righthanded Randy Wolf when it comes to the Mets — and seems to turn it up a notch when pitching in the New York spotlight.
Game 2: Johan Santana (9-7, 3.29 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (8-5, 3.45 ERA)
After a Bob Gibson circa 1968 start, Santana has been rather pedestrian over the last month and a half, to the point where one must wonder what the heck is going on. Cueto has the stuff to match Santana pitch for pitch on a good day, and it would be just Johan’s luck for that to occur — though, there’ll surely be someone else to blame in the event of another loss.
Game 3: Mike Pelfrey (6-4, 4.52 ERA) vs. Aaron Harang (5-8, 3.89 ERA)
Funny how Big Pelf often draws a similarly tall opponent. The 6’7″ Harang is having an off year, but he’s always a threat to dominate. Yet, for whatever reason, he’s always had trouble against the Mets (8.56 ERA over the last three years against them). As mentioned in our last series preview, Pelfrey can go either way — he can be outstanding or awful, and there’s no logic to predict which. This one’s a tossup.
In April, I predicted that Joey Votto would be the NL MVP. Though the rest of those predictions are looking pretty awful (i.e. the Diamondbacks would win the NL West!), so far Votto is making me look somewhat intelligent. He’s hitting .354 with 10 homers and 41 RBI in 54 games, and if not for a stint on the DL due to stress and dizziness, he might be vying for the Triple Crown.
Outside of Votto and Brandon Phillips, the Reds don’t have much firepower (OK, Jay Bruce has 18 jacks, but he’s hitting only .208). In many ways, they resemble the Mets — a team that was originally built depending on the homerun, but unfortunately the strategy of waiting for the long ball has often left them dry. Unlike the Mets, however, the Reds don’t steal many bases (only 47), and their team batting average is a paltry .248. That said, it’s no surprise that they’re 14th out of 16 NL teams in runs scored. Beside the disappointment of Bruce, Ramon Hernandez has lost the starting catcher’s job, Laynce Nix has won a job in left field, Edwin Encarnacion has fallen off the planet, Jerry Hairston is the best they can do at shortstop, and they’re trying to find ways to fit Jonny Gomes’ bat into the lineup.
Despite all that, their lineup still looks more dangerous than what the Mets can muster — though, that’s only on paper. In the reality of Citi Field, many of the Reds’ fly balls should be outs on the warning track, and their lack of speed is a major detriment on both sides of the ball in spacious Citi. If the Mets can keep their chin up, there’s no reason they can’t compete with Cincinnati in these three games — even without the Fantastic Four.