On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Mets Series Preview

Rich Schultz

After a series in Milwaukee featuring three blowouts, the Cubs return home for six games, starting off with their first matchup of the year against the New York Mets.

Well, if it's any consolation, the Cubs actually did better in May (11-16) than they did in April (9-16). Not much better, but better nonetheless.

The Cubs' second trip to Milwaukee fared no better than the first, as they were the victors in one blowout and the victims in the other two, including a resounding 9-0 loss on Sunday in which they managed a grand total of three hits. With the one win in the series, the Cubs finally reached the 20-win mark on the season, moving their overall record to 20-34. They remain in the Major League basement, one-half game behind the Arizona Diamondbacks (23-36).

Before heading on the road again for another 10-game set, the Cubs return to Wrigley for a six-game homestand, starting with three games against the New York Mets. The Mets come into the series with a record of 28-29, caught up in the logjam that is the middle of the pack of the NL East. They are in the middle of an 11-game road trip, having won four of five against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Cubs and Mets split the season series in 2013, with the Cubs taking two of three at Wrigley Field.

LIKELY PITCHING MATCHUPS:

Tuesday - Zack Wheeler (2-5, 4.31 ERA, 1.436 WHIP) vs. Jake Arrieta (1-1, 3.20 ERA, 1.500 WHIP)
Wednesday - Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-0, 2.45 ERA, 1.159 WHIP) vs. Edwin Jackson (3-5, 4.81 ERA, 1.414 WHIP)
Thursday - Jacob deGrom (0-2, 2.42 ERA, 1.077 WHIP) vs. Travis Wood (5-5, 5.15 ERA, 1.376 WHIP)

The Cubs will be facing one of the Mets' better starters in this series in deGrom; they will not have to face Jon Niese (2.69 ERA, 1.166 WHIP) who pitched on Sunday, or Dillon Gee (2.73 ERA, 1.063 WHIP) who is currently on the disabled list.  The bullpen for the Mets is subpar at best (13th in the National League in WHIP, 11th in OPS against), although closer Jenrry Mejia (4.07 ERA, 1.521 WHIP), despite poor numbers on the surface, has not yet blown a save in six opportunities. Now is as good of a time as any for the first one.

THE OFFENSE:

The Mets offense features three starters whose OPS is currently at or above .750. Two of the three will be playing in the upcoming series:

To put it bluntly, both offenses in this series are brutal.  The only thing that the Mets are doing okay right now, and only okay, is getting on base (.311 OBP, tied for eighth in National League).  Aside from that, they're neck-and-neck with the Cubs in general badness. All this series needs is the wind blowing in and no one may ever score. Lagares went on the disabled list after Sunday's game with a strained muscle in his rib cage; Matt den Dekker was called up in his place. den Dekker is hitless in four plate appearances this season.

On the Cubs' side, Anthony Rizzo continues to lead the way with an improved .864 OPS. Luis Valbuena and Starlin Castro round out the over-.750 crew at .820 and .754, but Junior Lake loses his spot this series dropping all the way down to .718, which sadly also keeps him fourth on the OPS list. The road trip was awful for Mike Olt, who went 1-for-23 with 14 strikeouts, dropping his OPS from .720 down to .636 and his average from really bad to really, really bad.

GAME PROJECTIONS: I'm honestly not sure how to call any of these games.

Game 1: Wheeler has been the Mets' weakest starter this year, although he has put together decent starts in his last two outings. He's also striking out just under a runner per inning, which doesn't bode well since the Cubs' batters currently rank fourth-highest in strikeouts. Then again, the Mets' batters lead the league in strikeouts, and Arrieta has been striking out just as many as Wheeler. Basically, strikeouts should outnumber runs by a large margin this game.

Game 2: Matsuzaka has only made one start this year, but did well in it (three hits, one walk in six innings pitched). Jackson's been all over the place lately, so I really have no idea what to expect out of him in this game. Other than striking out a lot more Mets.

Game 3: This is deGrom's rookie season, and he's done well in his four starts, not allowing more than three runs in any of them. Combine Wood's shakiness as of late with the fact that the Mets hit lefty starters much better than they do righties (.267 / .730 vs. LHS, .224 / .639 vs. RHS) and I feel compelled to utter a Yellonism:  Clearly, we are doomed.

RUSS' PREDICTION: I came into this series with high hopes of predicting two out of three.  But after reviewing the matchups, I'm just not seeing it. So, yet again: 1-2.

NEXT STOP: The short homestand comes to a close with a three-game set against the surprising Miami Marlins. Maybe that series is the one the Cubs win. Or maybe not.

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