Series Preview: Mets vs. Rockies II
What a time for the Mets to come into Coors — the bats are heated up and swinging as well as they have all year.
Of course there is the issue of the humidor — but that’s really more PR than anything else. Oh, you didn’t realize they’ve been using the humidor since 2002? It’s true — it took Colorado’s crack publicity team five years to get the story around the country.
While it’s a lot more difficult to hit homeruns at Coors than in the days of Dante Bichette, we’re not entirely sure if that’s due to the injection of humidity or the non-injection of another variable (yet to be determined by the Mitchell Investigation). Yes, it’s easier to put one over the fence in Citizen’s Bank Park, but Coors is still pretty high on the list — as of now the seventh-most homer-happy park in MLB. And according the ESPN’s Park Factor, it’s ranked as the sixth-most hitter friendly stadium (by comparison, Shea is #16, and Citizen’s Bank is #9)
So don’t believe the hype — it’s a sequel. The Mets will be expected to continue their hot hitting in this three-game set in Rocky Mountains.
Game 1: Tom Glavine vs. Jason Hirsh
Glavine is coming off two brilliant starts, including a one-hit shutout in his last start (OK, so it was only six innings, but it counts that way in the book). How he does at Coors depends entirely on the strike zone the home plate umpire offers him. If he doesn’t get the corners, it could be a long day of walks and pitching around guys like Holliday, Helton, and Hawpe. He absolutely, positively, must be able to establish his fastball inside early in the game, and he’ll need to show his curve a few times without hanging it.
Jason Hirsh is a young gunslinger still trying to find his way in the wild west. He can get his fastball into the mid-90s with movement, throws an occasionally tough slider, and mixes in an average change-up to keep batters honest. In many ways, he’s like a young John Maine in that he may rely too heavily on a high fastball and ends up getting hurt by it. If he has his slider biting, he could be a tough customer — but that has been rare for him thus far this season. He’ll more likely use his change, which is still a work-in-progress. Look for the Mets to swing and miss in the early innings, but catch up to the high heat the second time through the lineup.
Game 2: ? vs. Aaron Cook
Ollie Perez has already opted out of the start, so we’ll see either Jason Vargas or perhaps Aaron Sele. Vargas was bit by the longball in his only other big league start this year, and won’t be helped by the thin air here. However, he should keep the Mets in the game, and hopefully the dingers will be of the solo variety. One thing going for him, Vargas has been pitching in the PCL, a notoriously hitter-happy league with small parks — so he’s used to these circumstances.
If Aaron Sele gets the start — which appears doubtful — it will be his first appearance since March, I think. From what I understand, the thin air severely hampers the break on curveballs. Considering that Sele’s best pitch is his curveball, and his fastball is both flat and in the mid-80s, it could be a very, very long evening for Mets fans should he be pressed into duty.
Aaron Cook goes for the Rockies, and he’s a much better pitcher than his numbers suggest. He throws a hard sinker about 85-90% of the time, with the goal of getting groundouts. The aggressive Mets get eaten up by this type of pitcher even when they’re swinging well, so expect to see a few five and six-pitch innings. The one point of optimism is the fact that Cook is pitching more poorly at Coors than on the road, as pointed out by MetsGeek.
Game 3: John Maine vs. Josh Fogg
Say what you want about his luck, his BABIP, his FIPS, and any other uber-stat you can find — bottom line is, John Maine is developing into an excellent pitcher, nearly good enough to receive All-Star consideration. He hasn’t walked a batter in his last two starts, and needs to keep that streak going at Coors Field. If he can continue to throw that ever-improving change-up down in the zone for strikes, he should do well.
Josh Fogg embarrassed the Mets when he faced them in May, but is coming off a seven-run drubbing at the hands of the Astros in his last start — which lasted only four and two-thirds innings. I’m still baffled that he’s able to retire Major League hitters, and have no explanation for his ability to pitch so well against the Mets. The only possible conclusion is that teams beat themselves when facing him by swinging too early in the count — much the way Steve Trachsel continues to garner a paycheck. He throws four very average pitches, including a flat mid-80s fastball that’s often high in the zone, and rarely challenges hitters. Sound like a recipe for disaster in Coors Field, right?
Carlos Beltran has finally caught fire, and it looks like he might just be warming up. My guess is he’ll stay hot through the All-Star break, and have a few monster games in Coors and Minute Maid. Interestingly, though Beltran hit four homers over the weekend, he’s only hitting .259 over the last week. On the other hand, Carlos Delgado is hitting .308 over the same span (who’da thunk it?) and Jose Valentin is at a .296 clip in his last seven. Jose Reyes had cooled off for a bit, but seems to be back on track. David Wright continues to be solid if unspectacular, getting his one hit a game. Call me crazy, but my eyes tell me that both Shawn Green and Carlos Gomez have been taking good at-bats lately — one or both of them could be ready to go on a tear. Ruben Gotay’s clutch hitting and .300 average most likely will remain on the bench while Damion Easley continues to pilfer at-bats from him. Easley hit a homerun a few days ago, justifying his presence in spite of his current 4-for-19 slide.
Though the trade rumors whirl around him every day, and he’s not the 35+ homerun threat he once was, Todd Helton is still a dangerous and professional hitter. Though he’s been in a slump for the last few weeks, he walked twice yesterday and went 2-for-4 the day previous, so he may be busting out. Meantime, Brad Hawpe, Garrett Atkins, and Troy Tulowitzki are heating up as of late, and Matt Holliday is still leading the league in hitting. Oh, and then there’s this Japanese infielder named Matsui at the top of the lineup who is flashing a sure glove, hitting nearly .300, and has stolen 15 bases. Leadoff batter and centerfielder Willy Taveras (.310) may miss the series with a strained quad, but his replacement, Ryan Spilborghs, is batting .368 in his last 7 games. It’s a tough, deep lineup.
Don’t expect to see any pitcher’s duels for the next three days — the Mets are a hot-hitting team and the Rockies are an always-hitting squad. From the outset, this looks to be a slugfest, with the winning team most likely the one that swings early, often, and late.
The Mets have an added advantage — Rockies closer Brian Fuentes is no longer the closer, having been removed after four straight meltdowns. That leaves the Mets to feast on the offerings of former teammate Jorge Julio and LaTroy Hawkins in the late innings.