After splitting a two-game series against the crosstown rival White Sox, the Cubs continue this homestand against the Mets. Coming into the season, there was some thought the Mets might be able to contend for a playoff spot, if not for the NL East crown. Through nearly three months, that hasn’t quite materialized.
The Mets haven’t been terrible by any means, but they’ve been pretty “Metsy,” for lack of a better term. Injuries, inconsistency, and under-performance have defined their season to this point. Their run production has been right in the middle of the National League but looking up and down the lineup, it feels like it should be a bit better.
The corner outfielders, Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto, have built on strong offensive seasons last year and at 27 and 26 years old, respectively, provide pieces which the Mets can build around. Rookie first baseman Pete Alonso has been sensational this season, batting .271/.356/.617 with 24 home runs.
With those three as cornerstones, you’d expect the lineup might be rolling along pretty nicely. A big reason that they’re not is the disappointing performance of offseason acquisition Robinson Canó. It’s a frustrating to watch a player turn into a pumpkin the instant they put on your team’s uniform, but that’s essentially where the Mets are at the moment. I’d feel some sympathy, but I still have memories of Mets fans chanting “sweep” at Wrigley after the 2015 NLCS so instead what I feel is much closer to schadenfreude.
Starting pitching was expected to be a strength of the Mets and it has been…to an extent . Jacob deGrom has done Jacob deGrom things, though he hasn’t been quite as good as last year. Steve Matz‘s overall numbers took a hit in Wednesday’s start against Atlanta but he had been good enough before that. Noah Syndergaard has struggled a bit and is currently on the injured list, but you know the talent is there. That’s a pretty decent group, right?
They’re joined by inexplicably effective 36-year-old Jason Vargas. Vargas, who I constantly have to remind myself has not already retired, looks more like the freshman year literature professor who introduced you to Slaughterhouse-Five than a professional athlete.
See for yourself and tell me I’m wrong.
Jason Vargas says he was "confused" about his outing tonight. His comments after allowing four runs in 0.1 IP: pic.twitter.com/btQFzL8fFF
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) April 14, 2019
Despite the scholarly look, Vargas has fared better than he did during that interview.
The Mets bullpen has bullpen has been a bit of a puzzle, too. Offseason acquisition Edwin Díaz has been okay in the closer role, but probably not quite as good as the Mets were hoping given the haul they gave up to get him. New York also decided to re-acquire their own former All-Star closer, Jeurys Familia. Familia, who was also a member of that annoying 2015 Mets team, has been either injured or extremely ineffective all year. Too bad, right?
The Cubs, meanwhile, will be hoping to rebound from what has been another rough stretch defined by an inability to generate much offense. A big win on Wednesday night might provide some momentum to carry forward into this series. On paper, the Mets present a tantalizing opportunity to erase some of the pain of the recent slump and gain some ground in what has been an uncomfortably competitive NL Central.
TV and Broadcast
- Thursday, June 20 at 7:05pm CT on WGN and MLB Network
- Friday, June 21 at 1:20pm CT on NBC Sports Chicago and MLB Network
- Saturday, June 22 at 1:20pm CT on ABC 7 and MLB Network
- Sunday, June 23 at 1:20pm CT on ABC 7
*Lockett is filling in for the injured Noah Syndergard and has not pitched in the majors this year, stats listed are AAA. FIP is not calculated for minor league players.
What to Watch for
- Zack Wheeler, Saturday’s starter for the Mets, has an ugly ERA but a FIP that is considerably better. His peripherals tend to suggest that he deserves much better results than he’s gotten, so don’t be surprised if he gives the Cubs more trouble than you’d expect from a guy with an ERA approaching five.
- Yu Darvish is coming off what is certainly his best start as a Cub and his June ERA sits at a solid 3.44 through three starts. Asking him to repeat his sparkling performance may be a bit greedy, but if he can come anywhere close it’ll be an encouraging sign.
- The aforementioned Lockett hasn’t pitched in the majors this year, but did last year and really struggled. He pitched to a 9.60 ERA in three starts and could present a good opportunity for the Cubs.