By Declan Finn
At the beginning of the New York Mets' eight-game road trip we posed the question if the boys from Queens could finally become Road Warriors, turning around a season-long struggle away from home and maintain a stranglehold on the NL East lead in the process. Eight games later, the Mets answered that question with a resounding no, losing seven of those games, including two of three to baseball's worst team, the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Mets were 0-7 on the trip before finally winning a game Thursday afternoon in Milwaukee, escaping with a 2-0 victory on the power of Jacob deGrom's pitching and little help from elsewhere. The Mets went from leading the NL East before the trip to now trailing the Washington Nationals by 3.5 games heading toward the weekend.
If there's anything to take positively at the moment, it's the fact the Mets are returning home for six games at Citi Field, where they are 26-11 on the year, the second best mark in the majors. The Mets are 11-26 on the road, so any end to a road trip is a positive sign.
The Mets failed their Road Warrior mission, now they need to make back some ground at home. Here is our inside look at the Mets next series beginning Friday night with three games against the Cincinnati Reds.
Cincinnati Reds (34-37, 13.5 GB in NL Central)
at New York Mets (37-37, 3.5 GB in NL East)
Friday, 7:10 p.m.
Johnny Cueto (4-4, 2.98) vs. Noah Syndergaard (2-4, 4.03)
Saturday, 4:10 p.m.
Michael Lorenzen (3-2, 3.56) vs. Matt Harvey (7-5, 3.18)
Sunday, 1:10 p.m.
Josh Smith (0-0, 12.00) vs. Jonathon Niese (3-7, 4.12)
The Mets are returning home, so that's all the momentum they seemingly need. On the road is a completely different story, and the Mets are coming off a stretch where they lost seven of eight games. But Citi Field brings out the best in this team, so that carries weight. The Reds are 6-2 over their last eight games, making up some ground as they try and get back to .500 for the year. They had a big win Thursday night, beating the Pirates 5-4 in 13 innings.
Three Reds To Watch
1. Joey Votto is having another fantastic season, leading the team with a .296 batting average, to go along with 13 doubles, 14 homers and 36 RBI. Votto is signed through 2023 on a 10-year, $225 million deal, with a team option for 2024. He's going to make $25 million per season from 2018-2023, so he's going to be Red for a very long time, unless someone wants to pick up a very expensive and long contract.
2. Votto might still be the leader of the Reds, but Todd Frazier has overtaken him as the best player on offense, at least through a half-season. Frazier is batting .294 with 52 runs scored, 21 doubles, 24 home runs and 52 RBI in 70 games. He hit a game-tying two-run home run in the seventh inning against the Pirates Thursday night. Frazier is making just $12 million combined this year and next, but can't become a free agent until 2018, so the Reds definitely have to be excited about that.
3. Johnny Cueto skipped his last scheduled start with an elbow injury, but manager Bryan Price says it was only to give his pitcher more time to rest. Cueto is just 4-4 on the year, but considering his 2.98 ERA, those win-loss numbers should be much better. He's 1-0 with three no-decisions in his last four starts and 1-1 over his last six starts, which means he's not getting much run support. Cueto is in the final season of a five-year, $36.2 million deal, which makes him a free agent next season. He is sure to get a mega-contract in the offseason, but could also be traded this year if the Reds believe they will lose him for nothing.
The Mets remain home for three games against the Cubs starting Tuesday night.