Series Preview: Mets vs. Twins

Minnesota Twins baseball logoAfter losing only one series over a period of one season and a quarter, the Mets have yet to win a series in June, and in fact have only three wins all month. Now they have the Minnesota Twins coming to town, a team that’s been struggling to stay above .500, but has won six out of their last 10 games. If the Mets thought Chien-Ming Wang, Brad Penny, or Brandon Webb were tough customer, wait till they get a load of Johan Santana on Tuesday.

Here are the game by game matchups.

(As always, get the most detailed, in-depth pitching info on the opposing team from Alex Nelson at MetsGeek.)

Game One: John Maine vs. Carlos Silva

Well whaddya know, the Mets will be facing ANOTHER sinkerball pitcher who doesn’t walk people in Carlos Silva. Yippee!

After looking terrible against Brandon Webb, feeble against Brad Penny, and horrendous against Chien-Ming Wang, the Mets have a chance to disgraceful against Silva. Or, perhaps they’ve had so much practice against sinkerballers, they’ll be right on Silva. Yeah, right.

Once upon a time, Silva looked on the brink of a breakout year, after sporting a 3.44 ERA and walking only 9 batters for the entire 2005 season. Instead, he went the way of Oliver Perez in 2006, losing 15 games and suffering from an ERA that swelled to nearly six. This year, he’s been “on” and “off” — he pitched a shutout against the Braves in his last start, but managed only three innings in his previous start versus the Washington Nationals. Against the Mets’ sorry excuse for a big league lineup, he will certainly be “on”. Oh my, have I become cynical?

John Maine was far from lights-out in his last start, but good enough to win in his previous three. We can count on six solid innings, allowing 2-3 runs, but will it matter?

Game Two: Jorge Sosa vs. Johan Santana

Oh boy. Now that we know Johan is starting game two, a win in game one becomes all the more urgent — unless you really believe the Mets will somehow find their stroke against the best pitcher in MLB. If they can’t hit Hong Chih-Kuo, Chad Durbin, or Adam Eaton, how are they supposed to hit Santana?

Again, Sosa may or may not pitch a gem, but what does it matter? He might have to pitch a 14-inning shutout to win this game.

Game Three: Oliver Perez vs. Scott Baker

On paper, this is the game the Mets can, should, and damn well better win. Oliver Perez is clearly the ace of the staff, and is going against a guy who is doing so poorly, the Twins might be second-guessing their release of Sidney Ponson. Scott Baker’s ERA is currenly over seven, and at least one Twins blogger thinks his career with the Twins may be over. This is an opportune time for the Mets bats to get back on track — though I thought the same thing when Adam Eaton appeared on the mound.

Mets Bats

Must we talk about the Mets’ offensive offense? Hmm, where to start? Jose Reyes seems to be back on track, so that’s good. Jose Valentin is hitting the ball hard, but unfortunately he plays the same position as Ruben Gotay — who is hitting .438 in his last seven games and .320 for the season. Carlos Gomez might eke out a few infield singles and steal some bases to make things interesting. Carlos Delgado seems capable of singles once the Mets are down by a few runs, which is unhelpful. David Wright’s 17-game hitting streak has snapped (which by the way, was the most uninteresting 17-game hitting streak I ever saw). Paul Loduca was hitting the ball pretty well, but now may be affected by a sore elbow thanks to Chien-Ming Wang. I keep seeing Carlos Beltran’s name in the lineup, but have yet to see him bat. Can someone please confirm that he is actually taking his at-bats?

Twins Bats

The Twins are ninth in MLB in hitting as a team, but have been somewhat inconsistent lately. Catcher Joe Mauer was having a hard time getting his stroke back after a long stint on the DL, but went 2-for-4 yesterday (excellent, great timing!). Justin Morneau is perhaps the most frightening hitter not on Planet A-Rod that a pitcher has to face — Ryan Howard included. We all know that Luis Castillo will collect about 11 bloop singles in the three-game series. Michael Cuddyer can be a tough customer, and is helped greatly by Morneau’s protection in the on-deck circle, so look for the Mets to get hurt by him if they pitch around Mauer. Torii Hunter is still an All-Star, .300 hitter, and one of the best all-around players in the game. After him, though, the lineup gets a little easier — and should be even more vulnerable without the benefit of the DH.

Bottom Line

At this point in time, it is hard for a Mets fan to be optimistic. The offense is sputtering like a ’69 Nova with vapor lock, the pitching has begun to falter, and even the defense is showing signs of cracking. Add all that to the fact that the players seem to quit after the fourth inning, and what is there to say that’s positive? The Mets are in a team-wide slump and now have to face Johan Santana and the Twins — who may have a better lineup, one through five, than the Yankees.

It will take an over-his-head, heroic pitching performance by either Maine or Sosa to give the Mets a fighting chance to take two from the Twins. A meltdown by Silva would be helpful — as would Santana getting lost on the #7 train on his way to Shea.

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.