After Thursday night’s nail-biting 16-1 loss, the New York Mets welcome the Miami Marlins to town. Two teams enter with exactly 66 wins; only one team will leave the weekend with solo possession of fourth place.
Let’s break it down.
Probable starters seem to slightly favor the Mets. That’s good, since the Mets used 10 pitchers, a franchise record for a nine-inning game, in Thursday’s loss. Friday night, Jon Niese faces prospect Jacob Turner, who is coming off of his strongest performance of the season. Saturday, R.A. Dickey goes for win number 19, against the dependable Mark Buehrle. Sunday, Chris Young takes on Ricky Nolasco, winner of his last three decisions. Still, looks like an edge to the Mets Friday and Saturday, the Marlins Sunday.
In fact, overall, the two teams are virtually even in September, pitching-wise. Both have given up 82 runs, though the Marlins have done so in 18 games, the Mets in 17 games.
As for offense, the Marlins have scored 81, or roughly at parity with runs allowed. The Mets, in 17 September games, have scored… 47. That’s a lot, lot less. Less than three per game, in fact.
One major reason for Miami’s offensive success is their third-place hitter, a shortstop named Jose Reyes. This Marlins’ newcomer is hitting .333/.370/.458 in September, and .303/.355/.476 since May 20. He has three three-hit games since September 14, and another two two-hit games in that time! The Mets, as a team, had three hits last night, and as a team, had two hits the night before. But hey, who misses Jose Reyes, there’s Ruben Tejada, whose season OPS of .688 is right in line with Reyes’ .667 OPS… through May 20. You know, the one that had critics saying the Mets upgraded at shortstop.
At least the Mets didn’t subject themselves to the oft-injured Reyes, who has missed nearly three of Miami’s 149 games so far this season. The steadier Tejada has missed only 48 of the Mets’ 149 games in 2012. Good ol’ Everyday Ruben. Good riddance, Mr. Unreliable, Who Hits Triples That Make Our Hearts Race.
Still, expect Reyes to hear it from a massive crowd inspired to root on the Mets at Citi Field this weekend. It’s the cheering throngs that have catapulted the Mets to a second-half home record of… wait, that can’t be right. 4-24?
The tension will be unreal. The Mets are locked in precisely the kind of fight for positioning in the NL East that top brass hoped for back in August. So buckle up: the drama should be overwhelming in Flushing.