Series Preview: Mets vs. Padres II

San Diego Padres LogoThe last time these two teams squared off, the Padres were just a game behind the NL West – leading Los Angeles Dodgers. The Mets lost two of three in San Diego, and a few days later the Padres tasted first place — partially because the Mets rebounded to beat the Dodgers three times in tries.

What a difference a month makes. While the Padres and Dodgers were neck and neck fighting for first, the Arizona Diamondbacks sneaked past both teams and are now atop the division, three and a half over the Padres and six above LA. The San Diego offense continues to be the team’s achilles heel, with Brian Giles and Adrian Gonzalez the only two regulars with a batting average above .250. Manager Bud Black has tried to mix and match his offensively challenged personnel with disappointing results. For example, he’s put third baseman Geoff Blum at second in an attempt to get some punch, and he’s also worked former Astro Morgan Ensberg, Rob Mackowiak, and Termel Sledge into the lineup — all without success.

Without question, the Padres’ best offensive player is the elder of the two Giles brothers — Brian is batting over .300 with a .391 OBP, but is not the slugger he once was. He’s a solid leadoff batter, but after him the only real threat is Adrian Gonzalez, who is batting only .271 but usually getting extra bases when he does connect (36 doubles, 20 HRs). Mid-season acquisition Milton Bradley has been a pleasant surprise, batting .355 in 23 games, but injuries have limited his duty — he’s currently nursing a strained hamstring and is questionable for the series. Mike Cameron, Kevin Kouzmanoff, and Khalil Greene have been inconsistent, but can go on power binges when hot; unfortunately for the Pads, those binges have not been as frequent as they’d like. Catcher Michael Barrett has been a disappointment since his arrival, and is now on the DL

The pitching, however, has been the Padres’ strength — and the only reason they’re still in the hunt for the division title. Chris Young and Jake Peavy have been lights-out all year, and Justin Germano has been a surprise despite a 6-7 record. Greg Maddux has been his professional self, and though not an ace anymore he is a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy with an ERA under four. Boomer Wells has been released, and the fifth starter spot is up in the air — currently held by Clay Hensley, who has not been effective.

San Diego’s bullpen remains strong, led by future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman’s 31 saves. Former Met Heath Bell is having the breakout year we waited for in Flushing, teaming up with Cla Meredith to solidify the setup role and making Scott Linebrink expendable.

What does this series mean to the Padres? Quite a bit. They fell four games behind the leaders last week — the furthest they’ve been from first all year — and have cut that deficit by only a half game since. The D’backs are rolling and appear to be hitting their stride right now. In other words, San Diego can’t afford to have a poor road trip — and they’re facing the Phillies in Citizens Bank Park immediately following their three-game set with the Mets.

Pitching Matchups

Game One: John Maine vs. Chris Young

John Maine is the Mets’ victory leader with 13 wins, but he’s had only one truly good start since the All-Star break — a rain-shortened, five-inning shutout against the Nationals on July 29th. With Chris Young opposing him, this would be a wonderful game for Maine to re-discover the form that made him 10-4 with a 2.71 ERA before the All-Star Game.

Young, meanwhile, is leading the National League with a 1.93 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP. Yeah, that’s right — there’s no typo there. His 1969-like numbers are nothing short of dominating — and he’s not even considered the Padres’ ace! One thing going for the Mets is that they handled him pretty well last year … but, that was last year. It could be argued that he’s greatly benefited by the vast expanses of his home park (where he has a 0.66 ERA), but it’s not like Shea is a hitter’s haven. This will be a tough contest.

Game Two: Brian Lawrence vs. Jake Peavy

Um, how did this happen? The Padres send their top pitcher against the Mets’ worst? While the Mets had their way with Peavy in San Diego back on August 17th, it turns out the Mets were lucky to catch him in the middle of a funk — likely due to a physical ailment. He has a 1.05 ERA over his last five starts, and back to being the untouchable righthander he was for most of the first half. One possible advantage: the New York media. It seems that Peavy provoked a storm by suggesting that the Padres wouldn’t be able to retain his services beyond 2009. Strange, since it’s two years away, but his comments to a Union-Tribune writer were enough to cause a stir in the San Diego clubhouse. Perhaps the press at Shea Stadium can blow the issue way out of proportion and get him out of his game. We can only hope …

Game Three: Tom Glavine vs. Justin Germano

Since getting blown out by the Dodgers on July 19th, Glavine has strung together five straight solid starts, and appears to be reaching his stride at just the right time. On the surface, this might look like a “gimme game” for the Mets, but that’s because you never heard of Justin Germano.

Germano is only 6-7, but he’s been the victim of poor offensive support — suggested by his 4.15 ERA and miniscule 1.18 WHIP. He had a rough July (7.24 ERA) but has made three good starts in August. Not great starts, but good — enough to keep his team in the game and give them a chance to win. He’s not overpowering by any means, and relies on pinpoint control. His fastball is below average, topping somewhere in the high 80s, but he has a good change-up and an above-average curveball. Since the Mets haven’t faced him before, he also has the Wandy Rodriguez Effect in his favor. Actually, only one current Met has a history against him — Shawn Green is 2-for-3 with a double against him.

Bottom Line

Based solely on the pitching matchups, this could be a tough series for the Mets — and not unrealistic to suggest that they might get swept (thanks isuzudude for the correction … I incorrectly stated earlier “swept at home for the second time in two weeks” duh). Those Padres pitchers are tough, and unless John Maine suddenly re-finds his stuff, the Mets best chance to win one of the first two is to hope that either Young or Peavy are off their game.

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. isuzudude August 21, 2007 at 1:46 pm
    Joe: I think you’re new nickname is the Pessimist. Firstly, the Mets were not swept on their last homestand, although they did lose 3 in a row at one point. They lost 2 of 3 to Atlanta and 2 of 3 to Florida. In fact, the last time the Mets were swept was July 2-4 at Colorado (possibly the lowest point of the season). Over a month ago.

    Next, I actually like the Mets chances against the Padres powerhouse pitching. Let’s examine:

    1. Maine vs Young…
    Yes, Young’s stats this year are gaudy, but the Padres have still lost 3 of his last 4 starts because their offense is incredibly awful. In the meantime, the Mets have scored 5 runs or more in 8 straight games. Young also has a 7.00 ERA vs. the Mets in 2 career starts. Meantime, Maine has seriously struggled in his last 3 starts, but you can say he’s due for a bounce back game.

    2. Lawrence vs Peavy…
    Again, on paper this one favors San Diego immensely. Yes, Peavy’s caught fire of late, but like you also say he’s already been beaten this season by the Mets. Also, in four career starts at Shea, ERA of 5.04. Call it the Randy Johnson effect. Lawrence has also never faced his former team. Maybe he turns in a solid 6 or 7 innings with the juices flowing.

    3. Glavine vs Germano…
    Germano’s ERA post all-star break is 4.66 with a 1-4 record. He’s also lost his last 4 decisions, 6 of his last 7, while the team has lost 9 of his last 11 starts. Talk about a pitcher in serious regression. Meantime, Glavine is red hot. He’s 4-0 over the past month, 2.29 ERA in August.

    The thing with the Padres is that, even though the pitching staff has all these great numbers, it means squat because the offense can’t score. And you can’t win baseball games if you can’t put runs on the board. With the way the Mets offense has been clicking of late, I’d give them the edge to take 2 out of 3.

    Let’s hope they make me look good…

  2. joe August 21, 2007 at 3:03 pm
    isuzudude, I’m not a pessimist — I’m a Mets fan !


    I backtrack on the “swept at home” statement. However it sure as heck FELT like the Mets were swept that week!

    If the Padres’ pitching means squat, how did they win 66 games? 🙂

    I think this gray and rainy day has me in a similarly gloomy mood. Especially since I have two tickets to the game tonight and it’s looking like one of those “trek to Shea to find out the game is canceled” nights ….

    Sorry I’ll try to be more upbeat tomorrow (the sun will come out …)

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