This series preview marks the 40th one I’ve written this season. Thus far, the Cardinals are 19-15 with five splits in those previews and are 12 games over .500 during that time. The beginning of the preview was also marked for me as the day I got a haircut. I did not get another haircut until yesterday. The Cardinals should destroy the Mets.
The Mets are still in the playoff race, but their position has grown slightly precarious with a 62-62 record. The team is chasing the Cardinals, Marlins, and Pirates in order to get to the playoffs and attempt to defend their National League crown. This is how those team’s wild card odds stand at the moment, per FanGraphs (and yes, the Dodgers or Giants could fall into this morass as well):
Things are looking pretty good for the Cardinals as winning six of the last seven games has proved helpful in a contest where winning the most games is the contest. Of the teams above, the Cardinals are seen as the most talented and with a slight lead already, that makes them the favorites.
The Mets face the steepest odds of the teams above mostly because they are currently well behind. They have lost Matt Harvey for the season, and Steven Matz was just put on the disabled list today in another blow to their rotation.
The team is the same as they were a month ago on the infield with James Loney, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera and Wilmer Flores along with Travis d’Arnoud at catcher. Things have changed slightly in the outfield.
The team recently added Jay Bruce at the trade deadline and Yoenis Cespedes has just returned from the disabled list. Unfortunately for the Mets, with Cespedes’ injury concerns, the organizational mismanagement of Michael Conforto, and Juan Lagares out at least until next month, the Mets don’t have a real center fielder even if that term was used loosely for Cespedes and Conforto to begin with.
Curtis Granderson has been starting in center field with Justin Ruggiano getting some playing time there as well. Granderson last spent meaningful time in center field in 2012, and has spent the time since then being an average to slightly below average right fielder. As a hitter Granderson is essentially repeating his solid year from 2015 except for a 60 point drop in BABIP, which has rendered his production average.
The Cardinals took two of three from the Mets a month ago, beating the Mets in games started by Noah Syndergaard and Logan Verrett and losing the game started by Bartolo Colon. None of those three pitchers will start a game this series.
In tonight’s game, the Mets are starting lefty Jon Niese. If you missed most of this season, you might not realize that Jon Niese spent some time away from the Mets. Last offseason, Niese was traded to the Pirates for Neil Walker. At the trade deadline, the Pirates traded Niese back to the Mets for Antonio Bastardo, who actually pitched for the Pirates last season. Of course none of that makes Niese a particulary good pitcher. Both his ERA and FIP this season are terrible. He had been pitching out of the bullpen before being pressed into starting service against Arizona. He struck out six and walked two in just under five innings, but also gave up two homers and four runs. Jaime Garcia will start for the Cardinals.
Tomorrow night shapes up to be one of those pitcher’s duel-type games as Jacob deGrom pitches for the Mets. deGrom is having another fantastic season although he was roughed up in his last start. He struck out five against one walk, but did give up a homer against the Giants. Most of the damage leading to eight runs was done on 12 non-homer hits, so perhaps it was a little bit of BABIP bad luck. Carlos Martinez takes the mound for the Cardinals after dominating the Astros last week.
On Wednesday, Steven Matz was set to start for the Mets, but it now appears Seth Lugo will take his spot. Lugo has pitched mostly out of relief and has decent strikeout and walk numbers, but a very low ERA and FIP thanks to not allowing a home run in over 23 innings this year. The 26-year-old righty features low-90s fastballs (both fourseam and twoseam) along with a slider and a curve. He throws a change occasionally, but hasn’t had much success with it. In his only start of the season on Friday, he struck out three, walked one, and gave up three runs over 6.2 innings. Adam Wainwright pitches for the Cardinals.
Tonight’s game is at 7:15 pm CT and will air on FOX Sports Midwest
Wednesday’s game is at 7:15 pm CT and will air on FOX Sports Midwest
Thursday’s game is at 6:15 pm CT and will air on FOX Sports Midwest and on MLB Network for those out of market.