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Mets seek to win season series against Dodgers (Mets Game 49 Preview) May 29, 2016

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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Chase Utley during 2016 Spring Training. Photo: Kdolson20 via Wikimedia Commons

Chase Utley during 2016 Spring Training. Photo: Kdolson20 via Wikimedia Commons

After a 9-1 loss last night, the Mets have thus far split the season series with the Dodgers 3-3. The final game is this evening at Citi. Tensions are high following Chase Utley‘s extremely strong performance and Noah Syndergaard‘s ejection for throwing behind Utley in the third inning.

You can’t comment on game 48 without weighing in on the Utley-Syndergaard controversy, so let me just say this: it’s ridiculous that Syndergaard’s manager is worried he’ll be suspended for not hitting Utley, after Utley never served a suspension for a malicious dropkick slide at Ruben Tejada. For Syndergaard to be ejected the same day Tejada is designated for assignment, and for Utley to then hit the go-ahead homer and hit a grand slam, seems almost like a lazy literary device in a bad baseball novel.

The Mets, though, have work to do. Hansel Robles seemed listless; he allowed Utley’s grand slam in his first inning of work, relieving Antonio Bastardo in the seventh, but otherwise got out of the inning with two strikeouts and a fly ball. In the eighth, though, Hansel allowed two more home runs and two walks (sneaking a double play in in the process). Robles wasn’t the same during the eighth, and it seemed like he had lost interest in it by the time Jerry Blevins relieved him.

As for Syndergaard, he half-jokingly suggested he’d be available:

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Logan Verrett is probably unavailable after throwing 43 pitches in 3 2/3 innings last night; Bastardo tossed only 13, Robles 27, Blevins only 8 and Jim Henderson 16. Robles is almost surely available only in a pinch, but Bastardo is probably available. Nevertheless, having Syndergaard ready to pitch out of the bullpen does give the Mets some much-needed bullpen flexibility from a confident reliever. I’d be unsurprised to see him pitch Monday or Tuesday, but pitching him today might throw off his schedule.

Bartolo Colon starts tonight. Bart is unflappable; expect very little in the way of aftershocks from him. Utley has hit him mercilessly, 10-20 career with 2 doubles and a home run. Adrian Gonzalez is 13-28 (.464) with two doubles and three homers. Catcher Yasmani Grandal also has an OPS near 1, with a .250 average on 8 plate appearances including a homer of his own. Otherwise, the usual suspects are quiet: Justin Turner is 1-12, Carl Crawford 6-36, Howie Kendrick and anemic 3-25.

Still, it’s going to be hard to hit Clayton Kershaw. James Loney is 1-1 against Kershaw, but hasn’t joined the team yet. Likely first baseman Eric Campbell is hitless in 6 plate appearances against Clayton, as is Kevin Plawecki (6 PAs) and Alejandro De Aza (5). Usual threats Neil Walker, Yoenis Cespedes, and Juan Lagares are each 1-12, with David Wright and Asdrubal Cabrera each also at or below the Mendoza line. In fact, only Asdrubal Cabrera (.286/.375/.286) and backup catcher Rene Rivera (.250/.333/.250) are above the .200 mark. Wright, however, has walked 7 times in 28 plate appearances; one of those came on May 12 of this year in Colon’s uncharacteristic 5-0 loss to Kershaw. Wright sat on Saturday and will sit on Monday.

In order for the Mets to take the season series against the Dodgers, Colon will need to neutralize Utley. Defense is more important than usual, since Kershaw makes so few mistakes. Kershaw hasn’t allowed a home run since April 26 and has surrendered only 3 this year, so it’s incumbent on players like Wright and Granderson to get on base regardless of the circumstances and players like Cabrera and Walker to move them over. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mets can squeeze a longball out of Kershaw – they’ve been very good at it this year – and as long as they keep the defensive pressure on, this game is eminently winnable.

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