Mets – Marlins Quick Preview
The Mets host the fish this weekend for a three-game set, but just as important, the Phillies are facing the Nationals. In cavernous Citi Field, most of the fly balls of Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, and other sluggers in the Washington lineup were simply long outs, thereby castrating Connie Macta’s main offensive weapons (did you know that Washington is tied for second in the NL in homeruns with 53?). Deprived of the long ball, the Nationals’ poor pitching and questionable defense became exposed — it’s hard to win with Moneyball tactics in a big stadium, where athleticism and speed rule.
But in Citizens Bank Park, where routine flies regularly coast over the wall, the Nats have a fighting chance, even against the phightin’ Phils. Washington can make errors and give up runs, but their ability to get on base and wait for three-run homers is the ideal strategy in CBP, and should keep them in the game. In other words, don’t expect the Phils to sweep the Nats — and if they do, they won’t be able to do it as easily as the Mets did.
That’s the good news for the Mets. More good news is that the Mets are facing the Marlins, who have been reeling (or is it reeled in?) since late April. Opening Day starter Ricky Nolasco is in AAA, Anibal Sanchez and Renyel Pinto are on the DL, Dan Uggla is struggling to stay above the Mendoza Line, and Hanley Ramirez is “day to day” (you’re familiar with that term, aren’t you?) with a groin injury. A season that started so promising could not get much worse — though it might after three days in Citi Field.
Game One: Mike Pelfrey (4-1, 4.31 ERA) vs. Sean West (0-0, 3.60 ERA)
Pelfrey looks better and better with every start, and is settling in as the Mets #2 starter. West has pitched in one game this year, allowing 4 walks and 4 hits in 5 innings in a 10-3 loss to Tampa Bay. He has two things going for him on Friday night — he’s lefthanded, and he’s unknown. In seasons past, that combination often resulted in the Mets being shut out for seven innings. This year, that hasn’t been the case.
Game Two: John Maine (4-3, 4.18 ERA ) vs. Josh Johnson (3-1, 2.67 ERA)
Like Pelfrey, Maine seems to be improving as the season gets older — at least as far as stats go. Personally, I still think he is struggling with command issues, and he’s throwing too many pitches. Against the aggressive, undisciplined Fish, who routinely swing at pitches up and out of the strike zone, though, Maine usually looks like a Cy Young candidate. Going purely from the standpoint of the starting pitching matchup, this is the Marlins’ best chance at winning a game this weekend. But they’ll need to lay off those high hard ones and Johnson will have to pitch like he has in his previous two starts against the Mets.
Game Three: Livan Hernandez (4-1, 4.28 ERA) vs. Chris Volstad (4-3, 3.69 ERA)
Hernandez is coming off an outstanding, complete game performance, and, like Maine, feasts on young undisciplined hitters. Volstad might be the best #2 starter nobody’s heard of, but will it matter? This game, like most games, could come down to a battle of the bullpens, and by Sunday Florida’s pen may be fatigued.
The Mets are coming off a three-game sweep, and the Marlins are falling apart at the fins. Regardless of when Jerry Manuel recognizes momentum, it does play a factor in baseball and right now it’s on the Mets’ side.
Also, what we’re quickly learning is that teams that don’t run, and can’t play defense, have a rough time in Citi Field. The Marlins have some fine athletes on their club, but that hasn’t translated into a strong team defense, and, offensively, their main strategy revolves around the longball. Of the three players on their roster best suited for Citi Field, one is on the DL (Alfredo Amezaga), one will be affected by a groin pull (Ramirez), and one is 3 for his last 24 (Emilio Bonifacio). In addition, Mets killer Jorge Cantu is hitting .210 for the month of May, and other adversary Dan Uggla is trying to pull out of the worst slump of his career.
Bottom line: all signs point to a happy weekend for Mets fans.