With the first half of the season now a thing of the past, the Mets will start their second half quest to the pennant on the West coast for 11 games. They’ll be in San Francisco for four, Arizona for three, and back to California for four against the Dodgers. Here are some keys to each series I’ll be paying close attention to.
San Francisco 7/15-7/18
Expect pitching, pitching, and more pitching… And also the return of Carlos Beltran. The Mets will be facing a formidable quartet of Giants pitchers in the spacious confines of AT&T Park. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain are as good a 1-2 punch as there is in the league at the top of any rotation. With that said, I’m confident in the Mets starters not only because the Giant lineup is far from imposing, but because the rotation proved themselves to be stingy in the first half. I foresee a series where Jerry Manuel’s strategic make-up will be tested, and a lot of “small” ball being executed. Like all Met fans are, I’m anxious to see Beltran back on the field, but my expectations are low, seeing as how it took Jose Reyes so long to adjust to the speed of the Major Leagues upon his return in April.
The Mets are going to have to bring the lumber to the desert when they take on the D-Back’s for a three game set. Although the big bats of Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds can change the tide of a game with one swing, The Arizona pitching staff is about as effective as John Daley after 12 cold ones on the 15th hole. They are worst in the NL in ERA and earned runs allowed. The Mets have proven to be capable of coming from behind this season, so the lineup should be able to touch up the D-Back bullpen in the later frames if they fall behind. In addition, the Mets historically play really well at Chase Field. I’m expecting an abundance of offensive output in this series from the Met lineup. We’ll also see two players who are attracting a lot of attention on the trade market in RHP Dan Haren and left-hand hitting 2B Kelly Johnson.
Los Angeles 7/22-7/25
The Mets will go into Chavez Ravine to take on a Dodgers team that they swept in May at Citi Field. The Dodgers then were struggling internally, as Matt Kemp was riding the pine and clashing with management regarding the center fielder’s effort and hustle. The Dodgers played much better baseball in the later parts of the first half of the season and now find themselves in 2nd place in the NL West chasing the Padres. A mere 2 games separate the Padres, Dodgers, and Rockies in the West. James Loney is having his best offensive season, entering the second half with 63 RBI, and Andre Ethier has established himself as a premiere bat with a .324 average. The Dodger rotation is in a similar situation as the Mets, as they will most likely be bidding on available starters throughout the month. Regardless, I’m sure the Dodgers really feel as if they owe the Mets because in their previous three game set at Citi, they played really uninspired baseball and were swept. If memory serves, even John Maine earned a victory in one of those games. Ouch.
We are not in the dog days of summer yet, but this road trip will definitely be a challenge for the Mets and will tell us more about what our club is made of. At the same time, unless the Mets go 2-9 or worse, the fate of this team will not be hanging int he balance. With the exception of the Baltimore and Cleveland road sweeps, the Mets haven’t impressed on the road, and they still must prove their metal away from Citi Field.
The return of Carlos Beltran is the focus of intrigue. It will be interesting to see how he is eased back into the picture. I am hopeful that he will prove his skeptics wrong and contribute sooner rather than later. When it comes to the team’s chemistry, I don’t believe that his return will have a negative impact. Beltran knows his role on this team, and knows what he is capable of.