Series Preview: Mets vs. Nationals II

Washington Nationals baseball logoThe soft part of the Mets’ schedule continues as the Nationals come into Shea for a four-game set, including a day / night doubleheader on Saturday.

The Nats are expected to send four journeymen to the mound, as their already awful pitching staff has been recently decimated by injuries. Which poses a problem for the New York Mets, who have a hard time hitting mediocre pitching.

Here are the matchups:

Game 1: Jorge Sosa vs. Mike Bacsik

Since beginning the season with six wins in his first seven starts, Jorge Sosa has fallen back to earth, going 1-4 after June 8th. He was most recently rocked for 8 hits and 6 runs in 4 innings in Los Angeles, and has given up 23 earned runs in his last 30 innings pitched. Not good. It appears that batters have caught on to the fact that he throws one speed, and relies almost exclusively on his slider. However, he does have the benefit of facing the Nationals, which is both the lowest-scoring team in MLB (their 385 runs are 24 less than the next-worst Pirates), and the MLB team with the lowest batting average (.248).

Mike Bacsik is a soft-tosser that might be considered a “poor man’s Tom Glavine”. I disagree. He’s more like a “destitute’s Glavine”, or perhaps, a “homeless man’s Tom Glavine”. He tops out around 84 MPH, throws a change-up in the 70s, and keeps the ball in the strike zone. Sounds like BP, right? Except, he has one huge advantage: he’s never before started against the Mets. Can you say “Wandy Rodriguez Effect”? Further, in his last outing — against the Rockies — he pitched into the seventh inning and gave up only three hits and no runs. So he is capable of getting batters out. Also, let’s not forget the Mets once gave up Matt Lawton and four top prospects for his services, so he’s got some skills (there was another guy the Indians threw into the deal, don’t remember the name … some forgettable infielder).

Game 2: Orlando Hernandez vs. Tim Redding

El Duque has been a mixed bag of lights-out, so-so, and shaky performances, but for the most part has kept the Mets in the game. His last outing could be termed “so-so” by the stat line, but if you watched the game you saw that he really only made two or three mistakes — but every one he made bit him in the butt. In his last start against the Nats, he had one of his “shaky” performances, giving up three homers and six runs in five innings. Hopefully he can improve upon that this time around.

Yes fans, Tim Redding is still being paid to be a professional pitcher. What’s more, he currently holds a sparkling 2.92 ERA. Apparently he hasn’t been tested yet. Like Bacsik, he shut out Colorado through 6 2/3 innings in his last start, which must mean it had more to do with the Rockies than the skill of the Nationals moundsmen (perhaps the Colorado batters were having a hard time adjusting to the thick air in DC?). Mets batters have to watch out for his sneaky fastball, sharp curve, and the bobcat he stole from Todd Helton to paste onto his chin.

Game 3: Mike Pelfrey vs. Billy Traber

Mike Pelfrey looks to stay winless in the bottom end of a day / night doubleheader. Well, you know what they say — “the ninth time’s a charm”. The Mets hope to coax five mildly effective innings out of Pelfrey in this latest showcase of his talents — directly in the face of his potential suitors (part of a package for Chad Cordero?).

Meantime, Billy Traber takes the mound to show the Mets one more time why they never should have traded him for Mike Bacsik. Though it all seems so pointless now that they’re teammates.

Traber has made only one start this year, and has yet to pitch more than four innings in a game in 2007. However, he is 1-0 with a 0.79 ERA career against the Mets in four games (one start). On a good day, Traber doesn’t have much velocity-wise, but his command can be very good, and he’s hell on lefthanded hitters. Righties, however, pound him — to the tune of .350 this year, .312 over the last three years.

Game 4: John Maine vs. Jason Bergmann or Joel Hanrahan

After two straight poor outings to begin the second have, John Maine rebounded with a fine performance against Pittsburgh, allowing only two runs in seven innings. Granted, it was the Pirates, but his next victim is the Nationals — and, well, he’s expected to dominate them as well.

The Nats may or may not have Bergmann starting, as he left his last start due to a hamstring injury. The former Rutgers ace gave the Mets fits in his start against them in April, but much has changed since then — most significantly, an elbow injury that sidelined him for a month. Since the injury, he hasn’t been the same. In two June starts, he pitched a total of 8 innings and sported a 7.88 ERA, with opponents hitting .375 against him. He’s been pounded in July as well, with his ERA increasing with every outing. With the hamstring injury added to his decreased performance, it may make sense for the Nats to give him a break.

Should that be the case, Joel Hanrahan will come up from AAA to make a start. The Nats picked the 25-year-old off the scrap heap in February, and has gone 5-4 with a 3.90 ERA in the AAA International League. He’s a 6’3″ righthander once touted as a jewel prospect in the overzealous Dodgers organization. He doesn’t throw overpowering stuff, but rather relies on throwing strikes and pitching to contact. As Ryan Moore of Distinguished Senators stated, the Mets ” … shouldn’t lose to this guy … “.

Mets Bats

Let’s hope the Lastings Milledge show stays in town through the weekend — LM has been a one-man wrecking crew since his promotion, driving in 12 runs in 12 games. Paul LoDuca is also swinging a hot bat, and for power too — though if the Pirates stationed a legitimate centerfielder in the middle of Shea’s outfield grass, he might not have hit two doubles against the Bucs. David Wright continues his steady pace, and methinks Jose Reyes is about to explode. Rumor has it we’ll see Moises Alou in uniform (don’t hold your breath).

The Mets can be beaten if the offense strays from its recent strategy of taking pitches and working deep counts. None of the Nationals pitchers have any type of stuff to be concerned about, but their effectiveness can be multiplied by aggressive batters with poor pitch selection. Stay the course!

Nationals Bats

Dmitri Young — affectionately known as “Da Meathook” — is the only bat the Mets need to be concerned with, and he’s really not more than a singles hitter these days. Imagine Mo Vaughn without homerun power and there you have Dmitri; he’s currently hitting over .330. Ronny Belliard is batting .301 and is a threat to hit a bloop double at any time. Ryan Zimmerman is having a terrible year, batting only .257. The Nationals as a team are hitting .248 and on pace to finish the season with less than 100 homeruns. Get the picture?

Bottom Line

The Nationals are bottom feeders, and after this series the Mets must travel to Milwaukee to play a first-place team, then travel to Chicago to play the second-place Cubs, and then they’ll face the Braves. That said, the Mets must take at least three out of four from the Nats, and if they have it in them, a sweep would be nice. Will they? We’ll see.

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.
  1. Micalpalyn July 27, 2007 at 3:29 pm
    ROBBIE ALOMAR!!

    who said that out loud.

  2. isuzudude July 27, 2007 at 3:57 pm
    Mic: I still don’t understand this infatuation with Zack Duke. You just spent a considerable amount of time going on about Pedro’s injury concerns before joining the Mets, and now you have a guy currently on the DL with an elbow injury on the top of your wish list? Sources out of Pittsburgh say Duke won’t be back until mid-August, meaning you’re already losing 2 1/2 weeks from him if you were to acquire him before the trade deadline…and forget about getting him through waivers after July 31 because he won’t make it.

    Please, convince me that the Mets need to overpay (judging Pittsburgh’s reluctance to part with anyone this season) for a soft-tossing, injury-prone lefty who batters are hitting .364 against this season and .302 last. And, while you’re at it, convince me that he’s worth compromising our bullpen by forcing the Mets to use a 6-man rotation when Pedro returns from the DL.

  3. isuzudude July 27, 2007 at 4:25 pm
    Phillies pick up Tadahito Iguchi today to fill in for the injured Chase Utley at 2B. One less 2B option for the Mets to chose from, although I was never really high on Iguchi anyway.
  4. Micalpalyn July 27, 2007 at 7:01 pm
    Gee Isu: Yes its an infatuation, one likely to fade. However to clarify, I have somee jim Bowden like fancies, and in Zach Duke there is a young lefty (ala Ollie) who was baseball’s best near ready lefty just 2 yrs ago. I would not overpay though but Snell, Maholm and Gorzlanny are ahead of Duke.

    I would not have him pitch this yr but stash him away untill Spring. Assuming I could swing a favorable deal. Big assumption.

    Well joe, let me note here that this Iguchi trade illustrates you CAN get something for nothing even when EVERYBODY knows you need it.

  5. joe July 28, 2007 at 12:09 am
    Mets in the market for a second baseman for three months … Phillies in the market for three hours, and they get a solid starter in return for a nondescript minor league pitcher.

    Huh. Bake my cake, baby.