Late last night the Mets kicked off a key 11-game west coast road trip. Barring rain outs, the 11 games will be played in 11 days against the San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies. Two out of three of those teams stink and the third is underperforming due to injuries. As the Mets embarked on this trip, the NL East leading Washington Nationals and NL Central leading Chicago Cubs were set to face off in a four game series with standings implications for the Mets.
Speaking of standings, these 11 games are a golden opportunity for the Mets to leap frog the Nationals into first place for the first time this season. The way the rotation lines up, each of the Mets five starters will get at least two turns on the mound. They should have their way in four games at Petco Park against the light-hitting Padres. The matchups are favorable with Jacob deGrom vs. Colin Rea, Noah Syndergaard vs. Drew Pomeranz, Bartolo Colon vs. James Shields, and Matt Harvey vs. Andrew Cashner. The Mets should be able to take three of four in this series.
In the second 4-game series, the Mets face Chase Utley and the Dodgers for the first time since the playoffs. With Zack Grienke gone via free agency and an astounding nine players on the disabled list, the Dodgers have stumbled out of the gate, hovering around .500. The biggest culprit in their disappointing early season has been their lineup. With Andre Ethier, Scott Van Slyke and Alex Guerrero all on the DL, has been Carl Crawford and his .179 batting average is back in the lineup. Veterans Adrien Gonzalez and Chase Utley have done their part, but most of the rest of the lineup has struggled, including former-Met- turned-Met-killer Justin Turner, who seems to have come back to reality.
Three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw still leads the rotation, but with Brett Anderson, Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Mike Bolsinger all on the DL, the other starters include some unfamiliar faces. One-time Met and long-time AL pitcher Scott Kazmir steps in as the number two pitcher, followed by the hot-starting Japanese rookie Kenta Maeda, rookie Scott Stripling and the veteran lefty Alex Wood. Amazingly, despite all the elbow and shoulder injuries, it’s still a solid rotation, but the Dodgers, who also have a few relievers on the DL, really lack a reliable bridge to their sturdy closer, Kenley Jansen. Luckily for the Mets, Kershaw is slated to pitch on Sunday, so they likely won’t see him this time. If the Dodgers and Mets rotations stay on track, the matchups will be Harvey vs Kazmir, deGrom vs. Wood, Syndergaard vs. Maeda and Colon vs. Stripling. Three out of four seems like a reasonable outcome for the Mets.
Next up are the rebuilding Rockies, who have a strong lineup capable of scoring a lot of runs at hitter-friendly Coors Fied, but lack the pitching to be competitive this season. Colon will have a hard time keeping the ball in the park against the likes of Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez and the rookie shortstop Trevor Story. But then, the Rockies pitchers, who are largely terrible outside of Tyler Chatwood, won’t have an easy go of containing Yoenis Cespedes, Lucas Duda, et al. Thankfully, Colon likely won’t pitch in Colorado. Matz is slated to pitch the opening game and should be able to handle this team. If Terry Collins is shrewd he’ll keep a short leash on Harvey who has been prone to the long ball. If the rotation stays on track, deGrom will close out the series. We won’t see former Met-favorite-turned-wife-beater Jose Reyes in this series as he’s still serving a suspension. Road sweeps aren’t easy or common, but the Mets could break out the broom in Colorado if Collins is smart.
Eight out of 11 is optimistic, but quite possible. Let’s root hard for it because when the Mets return to New York, it will be to face Nationals at Citi Field. Let’s go Mets!