The Mets are coming off a series win in Philadelphia and looking to build momentum.
The Mets (11-11) look to finish their seven-road trip on a high note as they play four games with the St. Louis Cardinals (16-12). The Mets have not traveled to Busch Stadium since April 2019, when they dropped two of three there. Overall that year, they dropped five of seven to the Cardinals.
The Mets were more than happy to see the calendar turn from April to May. The Mets concluded last month with a disheartening 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, a team that was trotting out a lineup absent of most of their stars. The only two runs Marcus Stroman gave up came on a passed ball following a strikeout of the opposing pitcher, which let two unearned runs come home. Stroman was great but exited after five innings because of right hamstring tightness. On offense, the Mets got six hits buts but only managed one run on a Dominic Smith single.
On May 1, the offense immediately showed that it might be turning a corner with a four-run first inning off former friend Zack Wheeler. Taijuan Walker couldn’t make it stand, giving up two runs in the second, and serving up a two-run homer to Alec Bohm in the sixth to knot the score at 2. The Mets bullpen held the game in check, extending their scoreless inning streak to 18 in the process, which gave Michael Conforto the opportunity to play hero with a solo home run off Hector Neris in the ninth to give the Mets a much-needed 5-4 win and end their three-game losing streak.
The Mets won the most bizarre and entertaining game of the young season on Sunday Night Baseball to give them a series victory. The Mets’ bats busted out with a season-high 17 hits while tying their season best with eight runs, and it was just enough. David Peterson fell behind on an Andrew McCutchen leadoff home run, which was the lone run he would allow. Conforto drove home the tying run on a third inning single, and an error by pitcher Zach Eflin helped the go-ahead run cross the plate in the sixth. The bullpen’s scoreless inning streak ended on a Didi Gregorius three-run homer off Miguel Castro in the bottom half of the frame, but the offense exploded for six runs in the eighth to build what looked to be a comfortable lead. Things got dicey in the ninth with Edwin Díaz on the mound, and Rhys Hoskins hit what looked to be a game-tying three-run home run. Thankfully, umpire review concluded that the ball hit the top of the wall, and Jeurys Familia—in for the ineffective and wild Díaz—struck out Bryce Harper to preserve the 8-7 score.
It’s only been two games, but the offense appears to be coming around with 13 runs and 25 hits in the last two games after scoring just 20 runs in their previous nine contests. Chalk it up to the calendar changing, good baseball players coming out of slumps, or the effect of Donnie Stephenson (aka “Diesel Donnie”), but hopefully these trends will continue.
The Mets have seen some encouraging signs from Conforto, who had five hits in the series and is now slashing .364/.432/.667 with two home runs and a 198 wRC+ in his last nine games. Smith also started to come out of his prolonged early-season doldrums with five hits in Philadelphia to raise his numbers to .234/.250/.364 with a 70 wRC+ on the season. Jeff McNeil had a four-hit night on Sunday after going hitless in the first two games, which improved his numbers to .231/.324/.369 with a 100 wRC+ as he looks to finally break out from his struggles.
One player who is still looking for answers at the plate is Francisco Lindor, who is mired in an 0-for-17 slump. His last hit came in the sixth inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Boston Red Sox. He had a couple of golden opportunities on Sunday, but was unable to come through in key situations, and to date he only has one hit with runners in scoring position. The offensive struggles have not affected his defense, which remains sterling, but the Mets will need his bat to come around soon to allay any fears and get the home town fans off his back, many of whom have grown unnecessarily restless with his performance in the early part of the season.
The Cardinals enter this series on a four-game winning streak after sweeping a three-game set from the Pittsburgh Pirates over the weekend. Overall, they have won eight of their last ten games and currently reside in second place in the National League Central behind the 18-11 Milwaukee Brewers.
St. Louis made a splash over the offseason by acquiring $50 million, along with Nolan Arenado, from the Colorado Rockies. Since arriving, the third baseman is hitting .264/.319/.473 with four home runs, a 116 wRC+ and a 0.8 fWAR in 28 games. On the other corner of the infield, Paul Goldschmidt has gotten off to an icy start to the year, slashing .234/.281/.364 with three home runs, an 80 wRC+, and a 0.0 fWAR. Met killer Paul DeJong leads his club with six home runs but otherwise is hitting a pedestrian .172/.280/.376 with an 83 wRC+ and a 0.3 fWAR. Yadier Molina, who leads the club with a 167 wRC+ and a 0.9 fWAR, will miss the series as he recovers from a strained tendon in his right foot.
Monday, May 3: TBD vs. Adam Wainwright, 7:45 p.m. on SNY
The Mets have not yet named a starter for Monday’s game. The Mets could call up Joey Lucchesi, or they could employ a bullpen game.
Wainwright (2021): 28.2 IP, 32 K, 6 BB, 5 HR, 4.08 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 1.26 WHIP, 0.0 bWAR
It’s hard to believe that 15 years after “the strikeout” (*shivers*), Wainwright is pitching for the Cardinals. After a rough first start against the Cincinnati Reds (2.2 innings, six earned runs, seven hits, one strikeout) on April 3, Wainwright has gotten back on track over his last four outings, posting a 2.42 ERA and a 3.52 FIP with a 27.5% K% in 26.0 innings, although he is still in search of his first win. In his last start, he threw a complete game and gave up two earned runs on six hits with eight strikeouts and zero walks, but he was still saddled with the loss against the Phillies. Prior to that, he struck out a season-high ten over seven one-run innings against the Washington Nationals.
Tuesday, May 4: Jacob deGrom vs. Kwang Hyun Kim, 7:45 p.m. on SNY
deGrom (2021): 35.0 IP, 59 K, 4 BB, 2 HR, 0.51 ERA, 0.81 FIP, 0.57 WHIP, 2.1 bWAR
deGrom was merely extraordinary instead of superhuman in his last start. In six innings, he struck out nine Red Sox batters to match Nolan Ryan’s record for most strikeouts through a pitcher’s first five starts (59). He wasn’t at his sharpest and battled in the early innings before eventually settling into that familiar groove. Unfortunately, a Smith misplay in left field led to a double that directly contributed to the lone Red Sox run, which was more than the Mets’ lackluster offense could come back from. deGrom continues to dazzle in his routinely brilliant way, and every start has become and event worth tuning in for.
Kim (2021): 13.2 IP, 16 K, 1 BB, 1 HR, 3.29 ERA, 2.14 FIP, 1.32 WHIP, 0.3 bWAR
Kim has been solid to kick off the final year of his two-year contract with the Cardinals. The issue has been length, as the left-hander has yet to pitch six innings so far this season. The 32-year-old has had back-to-back good starts after only lasting three innings in his first start of the season against the Phillies. His last time out, he went five innings and gave up one earned run on a season-high seven hits with four strikeouts and zero walks as he settle for a no decision against the Phillies. Prior to that, he picked up a win against the Reds as he went 5.2 innings while allowing one earned run and striking out a season-high eight batters.
Wednesday, May 5: Marcus Stroman vs. John Gant, 7:45 p.m. on SNY
Stroman (2021): 29.0 IP, 23 K, 6 BB, 1 HR, 1.86 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 0.93 WHIP, 0.9 bWAR
Stroman was a hard-luck loser in his last start. The lone runs he allowed came on a passed ball after he struck out the opposing pitcher, which led to two Philadelphia unearned runs. He threw five terrific innings, holding his opponent to three hits. He struck out a season high eight through five and threw 73% of his pitches (47 of 64) for strikes. However, he was pulled with what eventually was pulled with a tight right hamstring. The move appeared to be precautionary, and all sides appear confident he is well enough to make this start.
Gant (2021): 25.0 IP, 20 K, 18 BB, 1 HR, 2.16 ERA, 4.29 FIP, 1.56 WHIP, 0.5 bWAR
Gant has battled control issues all year, but has been able to limit the damage, which has helped him maintain a 2.16 ERA. In his last start, he picked up the win against the Pirates, holding Pittsburgh to one earned run despite walking five and giving up three hits over five innings. He won his start before that against the Reds, shutting out Cincinnati over six innings while giving up three hits, walking two, and striking out three. Gant has typically found success against the Mets, pitching to a 0.87 ERA in 20.2 innings against them.
Thursday, May 6: Taijuan Walker vs. Jack Flaherty, 1:45 p.m. on SNY
Walker (2021): 27.0 IP, 27 K, 15 BB, 1 HR, 3.00 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 1.26 WHIP, 0.4 bWAR
Walker gave up his first home run in a Mets uniform on Saturday night, serving up a two-run, game-tying blast to Alec Bohm in the sixth inning. Staked to a four-run lead in the first inning, he wasn’t able to make that score stick and ended up taking a no-decision. In total, he was charged with four earned runs and gave up a season-high seven hits, but his control was better as he threw 66 of his 94 pitches (70%) for strikes. He again started to waver after hitting the 70-75 pitch mark in this start, which remains a concerning trend early on in his Mets tenure. Regardless, his numbers are still solid through five starts and has given the team everything they could asked for when they signed him at the onset of spring training.
Flaherty (2021): 34.1 IP, 36 K, 10 BB, 3 HR, 3.41 ERA, 3.29 FIP, 1.02 WHIP, 0.3 bWAR
After getting roughed up on Opening Day (4.1 innings, six earned runs, six hits, two home runs allowed), Flaherty has been superb. The Cardinals’ ace has posted a 2.10 ERA, a 2.41 FIP, and a 0.90 WHIP with a 27.4% K% and a 6.8% BB% over his last five starts, which has resulted in five wins for the starter. He struck out a season-high nine in his last start against the Pirates, giving up three earned runs on six hits over six innings of work on Saturday. Overall, St. Louis has won all six of his starts this season and, unlike the Mets’ ace, Flaherty has received 61 runs of support over his first six starts.
Prediction: The Mets and the Cardinals split the four games at Busch Stadium.