Series Preview: Mets vs. Marlins

Chan Ho Park will strap on the spikes in El Duque's spot tonightPrologue

Had to hold off on the preview while we waited to hear the results of the examinations of El Duque and Jose Valentin.

From what we understand, Orlando Hernandez has bursitis in his shoulder and will be out indefinitely. He’s been placed on the 15-day DL and likely will be out longer than that. Chan Ho Park has been brought up to start tonight’s game in his place.

Additionally, Jose Valentin has an ACL injury to his knee, and will also be put on the 15-day DL.

Ruben Gotay will take his place on the Mets roster.

The Pitching Matchups

As always, you can get the most detailed pitching notes from Metsgeek. Read over there to get the full scoop on the Marlins. Additionally, I’ll give you my brainless comments here.

Monday: Chan Ho Park vs. Scott Olsen

With El Duque out, Park gets his first MLB start of 2007. He’s gone 3-1 for New Orleans, albeit with a frightening 7.24 ERA. In four starts he’s pitched 21 innings, allowing 26 hits, 5 walks, 6 homeruns, and he struck out 20. We can be optimistic and say, “well, he’s pitching in the PCL, where homers are aplenty”, but an ERA over 7 is an ERA over 7 (in contrast, the ERA’s of Philip Humber and Jason Vargas are in the 4s). The six homers in 21 innings certainly drives home the point that the PCL parks are small, but it doesn’t make me feel any better about Chan Ho’s numbers. Interestingly, all six homers were to righthanded batters — which suggests that he’s hanging his curveball (you hang ’em, we bang ’em!). Again, that possibility does not make me feel any more comfortable.

Scott Olsen is a big lefty trying to build on a strong rookie season. He can be dominant at times — he struck out 10 Braves in 8 innings in his last start — but can also have trouble with his control. He is the Marlins’ version of Oliver Perez.

To beat Olsen, the Mets’ righthanded batters must be on their game, as Olsen’s slider will eat up Shawn Green and Carlos Delgado. Additionally, Chan Ho Park must find a way to give the Mets 5-6 decent innings. This game depends very much on which Scott Olsen shows up. If the “good” Olsen is pitching, the Mets’ slumping lineup might not be able to make up for Park’s inadequacy. If the “bad” Olsen is on the mound, the game could go either way, and likely turn into a battle of the bullpens. I like the Mets’ chances in that event.

Burning Question: Why is Chan Ho Park pitching, and not Jorge Sosa, who is 4-0 with a 1.13 ERA?

Satisfying Answer: Because Sosa just pitched yesterday (he won, pitching 6 shutout innings). And before you ask, Vargas pitched on Saturday and Humber Friday … and Adam Bostick on Thursday. So it is just dumb luck that El Duque’s missed start coincides with Chan Ho Park’s day to pitch.

Tuesday: Mike Pelfrey vs. Ricky Nolasco

Pelfrey is coming off a very poor start — one that might have sapped his confidence. If so, it could be another quick outing for the young righty. Trying to predict what Pelfrey will do is akin to predicting next week’s weather: who knows?

Nolasco is making his first start after coming off the 15-day DL with an elbow issue, so his predictability is equally unpredicatible. Though he also had a strong rookie season, he did so in spite of getting rocked several times by the Mets.

This is the “swing” game — it can go either way. If Pelfrey finds himself, it could be a good ballgame for the Mets. Otherwise, this game is fated to be in the hands of the middle relievers, once again, as neither starter is expected to get far past the fifth.

Wednesday: Oliver Perez vs. Anibal Sanchez

This is an important game for Oliver Perez to be “on”, because it is likely that the Mets’ bullpen will be used heavily in the first two games. The Mets will need another strong 6- to 7-inning outing from the enigmatic lefty in order to garner a win.

Anibal Sanchez had an outstanding rookie campaign, and is 2-0 this year, but has yet to get past the sixth inning — he pitched less than six in all but one of his starts. Also, his WHIP is 1.92, mainly due to trouble with control. If the Mets batters can get back to their patient approach, they should drive up the pitch count and knock Sanchez out early — and tee off on a tired and weak Florida bullpen.

Mets’ Hitting — If You Can Call it That

The Mets offense as a whole is ice cold, and looked awful against the worst pitching in the NL East. The good news is that Shawn Green has a six-game hitting streak, and hitting somewhere around .500 in that span. That could change tonight, however, if Olsen can get him to chase the slider. Also swinging a hot bat lately is Damion Easley, and the timing could not be better — he’ll be playing in place of Jose Valentin for the next few days.

Marlin’s Bats

Pitcher Scott Olsen is batting .556 so far this year, so he’s not a gimme at the end of the order. Miguel Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez are Florida’s leading hitters, and Cabrera is coming off a 5-for-5 day against the Phillies on Saturday. Veteran Aaron Boone and leftfielder Josh Willngham are also wielding hot bats of late, both hitting .348 over the last seven games. However, Mike Jacobs is starting to cool off after a hot start, and Dan Uggla is in a 7-for-33 slump over the last week.

Bottom Line

On paper, it looks as though the bullpens will have a big part in deciding these three games. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Scott Olsen, Oliver Perez or some other starter won’t come out and toss eight shutout innings. If my guess is correct and this series does come down to the bullpens, I’m liking the Mets chances — even with Aaron Heilman off his game. For one, the Mets still have Billy Wagner to close out the ninth, while the Fish have … hmmm … who do the Marlins have? Jorge Julio — who wasn’t very effective in the closer role — is on the 15-day DL, and the Fish could go to any arm in their ‘pen, including former Mets Henry Owens and Matt Lindstrom. With the Florida bullpen a smattering of question marks, I think the Mets have a good chance to take two out of three.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.