By Declan Finn
The New York Mets faced an early-season test of just how good it could be this season with a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs. The results were anything but uplifting. The Mets lost all four games on the road, setting themselves up for a stretch where they have to string together victories or possibly lose their grip on first place in the NL East forever. Long gone are the days of a 13-3 start, highlighted by an 11-game win streak. The Mets now are trying to find themselves on offense as they look to fend off the serious challenge of the Washington Nationals, who are just 1.5 games back.
Luckily for the Mets, they return home to Citi Field to take on one of the worst teams in baseball, one that has already fired their manager and is 11 games under .500. Now, if the Mets can't win this series against the Milwaukee Brewers, then all momentum will be gone. Win the series, and the Mets will regain confidence heading into a four-game set with one of the best teams in baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals. Here is an in-depth look at a three-game series the Mets have to win starting Friday night.
Milwaukee Brewers (12-23, 5th Place NL Central)
at New York Mets (20-15, 1st Place NL East)
Friday, 7:10 p.m.
Kyle Lohse (2-4, 7.03) vs. Bartolo Colon (6-1, 3.30)
Saturday, 7:10 p.m.
Matt Garza (2-4, 4.04) vs. Jacob deGrom (3-4, 3.46)
Sunday, 1:10 p.m.
Wily Peralta (1-4, 3.80) vs. Noah Syndergaard (0-1, 5.06)
Since starting the season with an 13-3 record, which included an 11-game win streak, the Mets have gone 7-12 and are fresh off getting swept in four games by the Cubs. The historic momentum the Mets had at the beginning of the season is now nearly gone, nearly only because the Mets can at least say they still hold first place in the division. But that has been evaporating quickly as well, with the Nationals making their expected move closer to the top of the NL East. The Mets are in desperate need of a series win. The Brewers started the season with a 7-18 record that led to the firing of manager Ron Roenicke. Milwaukee has played better of late, however, going 3-3 over their last two series, including winning two of three games against the Cubs. The Brewers are 5-5 since firing the manager and have won seven of their last 12 games overall.
Three Mets Storylines
1. The Mets need a stopper and there might not be a better starting pitcher on the team right now to do that then the one who goes in the opener. Colon will not only be bidding to stop the Mets' four-game losing streak, but to become the first pitcher in the major league this year to reach seven victories. Colon, who signed a two-year deal that was much-maligned before last season, has paid off that $20 million contract, but there might not be a bigger start to this point than against a bad Brewers team Friday night. If the Mets lose, the groundwork will be laid for another series loss, and if that happens, they may never recover. It's still early in the year, but this start by Colon is huge.
2. Will Wilmer Flores ever stop making errors? Not only that, but will he stop making errors that come back to hurt the team? Flores made yet another error Thursday afternoon which led to two runs in a 6-5 loss that sealed a four-game sweep. Flores has made eight errors in 29 games this season. His offensive numbers are simply average (.238 with five homers and 11 RBI), so the Mets have to seriously consider going in a different direction. But Mets fans shouldn't get their hopes up, as general manager Sandy Alderson appears willing to give Flores a long leash. The only recourse for Mets fans at this point is to hope Flores finds his glove.
3. The Mets offense has disappeared and, not surprisingly, so has the victories. The Mets scored just 10 total runs in the four games against the Cubs, with five coming in the series finale alone. The Mets blew a 5-1 lead in that game, their largest blown lead of the season. We all knew coming into the season if the Mets didn't hit, they wouldn't contend for a playoff berth. The Mets have favorable matchups in all three games against the Brewers this weekend, so now would be the time to break out. If they can't, first place in the NL East might be gone.
Three Brewers To Watch
1. Craig Counsell is the new manager of the Brewers and has led them to a .500 record over 10 games since taking over. Before taking over as manager, Counsell had never coached nor managed at any level, working as a special assistant to general manager Doug Melvin before that. He did play 16 years in the big leagues, including two stints with Milwaukee, so he knows the franchise well. He signed a three-year contract to replace Roenicke.
2. Adam Lind leads the Brewers in every major offensive category. He's batting .298 with 10 doubles, six homers and 18 RBI. Lind is 0-for-his-last-14, however. He spent the first nine seasons of his career with Toronto before switching to the National League this year.
3. Former Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez has that same role with the Brewers. After a rough start, Rodriguez is on fire, saving six straight games without allowing a run over his last eight appearances. He's allowed just five hits and struck out 11 over that span of eight total innings. Rodriguez has seven saves overall with a 1.38 ERA, striking out 16 in 13 total innings.
The Mets go from playing one of the worst teams in baseball to playing one of the best, as the St. Louis Cardinals come into Citi Field for four games starting Monday night.