Series Preview: Mets vs. Cardinals II

St. Louis Cardinals baseball logoThe Mets picked a great time to get back into the swing of things.

After sweeping the Athletics over the weekend, the Mets now face the Cardinals for a four-game set, and the timing couldn’t be better for the orange and blue.

No less than eight St. Louis ballplayers are on the disabled list — most of them impact veterans. A sudden rash of injuries in the last two weeks has completely decimated their roster, and forced the Cardinals to rely on a pitching rotation headed by Kip Wells (3-11, 6.45 ERA).

How bad is it for the Cards? Here are a few of the players currently on the DL: Jim Edmonds, Yadier Molina, David Eckstein, Preston Wilson, Braden Looper, and Chris Carpenter. In addition, Scott Rolen may or may not still be affected by his barky shoulder — his meager output of 4 homeruns and a .266 average would suggest something is terribly wrong. This Cardinal team is a bird with broken wings, laying wounded on the ground, and ready for the kill.

Game One: Jorge Sosa (6-3, 4.05 ERA) vs. Mike Maroth (5-2, 5.06)

Which Sosa will show up to face St. Louis? Will it be the acelike star who cruised to six wins in his first seven starts, or the schlep who looked like a BP pitcher in his last two starts? The jury is out, especially facing his former team — he didn’t fare too well in his chance to prove the Braves wrong.

Meantime, the Cardinals bring in Mike Maroth, who might not be as bad as his 5.06 ERA might indicate. He’s pitched into the seventh inning five times in 13 starts, with a few gems mixed in. The Mets have never seen him before, and he’s a lefty with average stuff, so the Wandy Rodriguez Principle is in effect. Maroth gets eaten up by righthanded batters — they’re batting .323 with an .893 OPS and 14 homeruns against him — but he can be tough on lefties when he gets ahead. At this point in his career, he is a young and less-effective version of Jamie Moyer — but then, that’s just the type of hurler that has given the Mets fits this year. If not for the Cards’ desperation for starting pitching, Maroth would likely be evolving into a LOOGY. The Mets need to be patient and then sit on his change-up — he’s more likely to throw that than his feeble 84-MPH fastball.

Game Two: Oliver Perez (7-6, 3.16) vs. Todd Wellemeyer? (2-0, 4.66) or Brad Thompson (5-2, 5.16)

Ollie has been much better than his 7-6 record would indicate — he’s occasionally pitched like an ace and might be closer to ten wins if he had a bit of luck and better help from the bullpen and offense. His last outing against the Twins was less than stellar, but not as awful as it looks on paper — he left the game losing 3-2. It’s not his fault Scott Schoeneweis has pictures of Willie Randolph doing naughty things. That said, Perez is due for a lights-out game.

His opponent could be Wellemeyer, but he’s suffering from an injured wrist. Because the Cardinals have already reached their allotment of players on the DL, Wellemeyer is not allowed to be injured and could take his turn. If he does, look for the Mets to tee off on the righty’s straight hard stuff — assuming they keep the same patient, intelligent approach they exhibited over the weekend.

To give you an idea of Wellemeyer’s effectiveness, and the reality of the St. Louis starting pitching situation, consider that Wellemeyer has been let go by the Cubs, Marlins, and Royals since spring training last year.

If Wellemeyer can’t go, Brad Thompson is the likely starter. Should Thompson’s sinker be working, he could pose a problem for the Mets. If not, it could be an early exit for the righthander.

Game Three: Tom Glavine (6-5, 4.38) vs. Anthony Reyes (0-9, 6.64)

In 20 full MLB seasons, Glavine’s ERA was north of four only four times — twice before the age of 25, and only twice in the last 16 seasons. After looking downright awful against the Tigers and Yankees, Tommy bounced back with a spectacular 8-inning, one-run effort against the Athletics. A return to National League lineups should serve Glavine well, and give him the opportunity to dive that ERA back down into the threes. History does tend to repeat itself, after all.

Reyes is a remarkable enigma. He throws serious gas — touching 96-97 on occasion — and mixes in both an acceptable change-up and a fierce slider. However, he tends to throw the fastball too straight and too high, especially when behind on the count — which predictably leads to balls flying over fences. In many ways, he is like a young Jorge Sosa. If his brain remains connected to his body, Reyes has the stuff to beat even a hot Mets lineup, and thus can’t be taken lightly. However, he could just as easily repeat his NLCS performance, and be gone before the fifth inning.

Note that there is a possibility that Thompson pitches this game and Reyes gets pushed to Thursday — which would be fine by me.

Game Four: Orlando Hernandez (3-3, 2.77) vs. Adam Wainwright (6-6, 4.58)

When El Duque has been on, he’s been devastating — and he’s been “on” more often than not this year. Like Tom Glavine, Hernandez was beat up by the Tigers and Yankees, but found himself against the slumping A’s, shutting them out for seven innings. If he can pitch around Albert Pujols, and keep the gnats in front of him off the bases, he should be OK. Worth noting: both Scott Spiezio and Adam Kennedy have career averages over .300 against El Duque.

Assuming Reyes doesn’t pitch this game, the Mets will face Wainwright. We all know what he did to the Mets (and Carlos Beltran in particular) in the NLCS, but this will be the first time he faces New York as a starter. His 93-MPH sinker makes tough enough, but when combined with a devastating overhand curve, good slider, and decent change, he’s nearly unhittable. The good thing is, he doesn’t always have that good curve, which makes him susceptible to lefties. If his command is off, the lefty-heavy Mets lineup has a good chance to hit him. If he’s on, and El Duque is too, it could be an interesting pitchers’ duel.

Then again, Anthony Reyes might start this game, and we won’t need to worry about Wainwright at all.

As always, check out MetsGeek for Alex’s in-depth report on the St. Louis pitchers.

Mets Bats

Remember everyone who was cold last week? They’re all now hot. Remember the few guys who were hitting before the weekend? They’re still hitting. With the cast of clowns the Cardinals are sending to the mound this week, the Mets will have only themselves to blame if they can’t continue the hot hitting.

Cardinals’ Bat

Albert Pujols will likely be walked 17 times in this four-game series. The only other batter to be concerned with is Chris Duncan, who is batting .272 with 14 HRs and 12 doubles this year, and .438 over his last seven ballgames.

What the Mets have to be concerned with is the possibility that Juan Encarnacion goes on one of his trademark hot streaks that justify his presence in the big leagues. Of course, Scott Rolen could suddenly heat up, but baseball fantasy owners everywhere have been waiting since April for that to happen. He is, however, batting .320 over the last week, so now is as good a time as any.

Also hot is Aaron Miles — he’s 12 for his last 24 and making the most of his opportunity to play every day in Eckstein’s absence. Oh, and of course there is Scott Spiezio swinging a hot stick lately. Great timing, eh?

Another interesting note: pitchers Kip Wells and Adam Wainwright are both batting over .300 this season — in a fairly significant sample of at-bats.

Bottom Line

The Mets must continue the momentum built over the weekend and make the most of this opportunity to beat the Cardinals while they’re down. Anything less than three out of four would be a disappointment. However, it’s not impossible for the ailing Cardinals to turn the tables on the Mets. All it will take are a few fluke pitching outings and the over-management of Tony LaRussa.

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.