By Matt Straub
The New York Mets have made me be quiet, at least for now. I have been one of their biggest doubters, feeling certain their good start was a mirage. When they fell off the pack for a while, I was sure it was a sign of things to come. They rallied by beating a bad Phillies team, however, doing what good teams do: beating teams you have to beat when you need to the most. Now, however, the Mets have a bigger test ahead. The Cubs have stunk lately, but they have plenty of talent on both offense and the pitching staff. If the Cubs do some damage at Wrigley, the Mets will once again bring up questions about their long-term future. Win this series, and people like me have to remain quiet.
Let’s look at how the Mets can do so.
New York Mets (20-11, 1st place NL East)
at Chicago Cubs (15-15, 2nd place NL Central)
Monday, 8:05 p.m.
Jacob deGrom (3-3. 2.95) vs. Jon Lester (2-2, 4.04)
Tuesday, 8:05 p.m.
Noah Syndergaard (0-0, 0.00) vs. Jake Arrieta (3-3.3.41)
Wednesday, 8:05 p.m.
Matt Harvey (5-1. 2.72) vs. Jason Hammel (3-1, 3.52)
Thursday, 2:20 p.m.
Jon Niese (3-2, 1.95) vs. Travis Wood (2-2. 4.96)
The Mets won a crucial game for their psyche Sunday, taking 2-of-3 from the Phillies. After losing seven-of-10 and making doubters like me wonder if they’d ever recover, the Mets have won four-of-six and have regained their footing while maintaining a nice lead in the division. The Cubs have lost seven of their last nine and now have fallen back to the .500 mark. This series features two teams going in different directions.
Three Mets Storylines (+1)
1. For a team trying to hold off the preseason favorites, Washington, road trips are essential. The Mets did a good job in Philly, but now must navigate a tricky four-game set against a team with good pitching and some good, young hitters. The Cubs’ rotation is underrated, however, meaning the Mets’ bats are going to have to win them this series since the pitching is about even.
2. Syndergaard’s big-league debut is something Mets fans have been waiting for and are excited about. It’s important for them, the team and Syndergaard himself not to put too much on one outing, especially in a little park, but a good outing can only be a good sign for the future. His results aren’t as important as the amount of poise he shows.
3. This is the kind of series the Mets have to win to truly be a contender. Their pitching is lined up how they want it for the most part, meaning they shouldn’t be worried about a .500 team on the road. Beat them and show the world what you’re made of.
4. The Mets’ bullpen has been on fire of late, something especially important in the National League, where changes are more frequent because of the antiquated style of play which doesn’t feature a DH.
Three Cubs To Watch
1. Lester has been much better of late. Whether it was the new league, a new organization, or the pressure of being a franchise savior, Lester struggled early in the year. How he does against the Mets is a sign of what he might do in pressure situations later in the year, as he’ll look to set the tone tonight.
2. Kris Bryant, the huge prospect who had to wait his turn because of another stupid rule, hasn’t set the world on fire early in his career. The Mets would hate to see him find it this week, but watching him will be fun.
3. Speaking of good young players, Anthony Rizzo is quickly turning into a beast at the plate. The first baseman gives the Cubs an anchor to build around with the other young guys still getting used to the game. He also gives the Mets’ pitchers nightmares.
The Mets come home to face the lowly Brewers looking to get momentum before a showdown with the Cardinals.