Series Preview: Mets @ Pirates
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania…one of my all-time favorite cities, and home of one of the worst Mets memories of my life.
It was September of 2006, my girlfriend and I had booked a trip to see the Mets face the Pirates long before the standings looked the way they did.
As we walked the Clemente Bridge, you would have thought you were at Shea West. More Mets fans than Buccos fans, and what made it even more memorable was seeing friends at the stadium when neither of us knew the other would be there.
We were going to see the Mets clinched the division. This was gonna be awesome!
Then in game 1, Pedro Martinez didn’t have it, but Jason Bay did. In game 2, Ronny Paulino doubled off Aaron Heilman in the 9th and then in game 3, I was left with memories of a wicked sunburn and depressed Pirates fans acting as though they had won the pennant after sweeping the Mets out of Pittsburgh.
There’s nothing worse than a fan base who hasn’t seen a winner in ages, telling a huge group of opposing fans to “get out of our stadium!”
Monday, 7:05 pm: Johan Santana v. Erik Bedard
Santana has posted a 1.96 career ERA (eight earned runs/36.2 innings) vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates over six games, five starts. Santana has two complete games vs. Pittsburgh, which is the most for him against any team.
Despite Santana’s record, he’s had 5 straight quality starts and is 6th in the NL with 9.5 K’s per 9 IP. He’s pitching like the ace we need him to be.
For Bedard, health will be a focus. He left his last start with back spasms, so anything can happen here tonight.
Tuesday, 7:05pm: R.A. Dickey v. James McDonald
McDonald has been a shining light on a dim season in Pittsburgh. At times, McDonald can appear to be dominating. This matchup could be a great view for fans around the league.
McDonald has struck out at least 8 batters, four times this year. When he’s on, he’s nasty.
For Dickey, he needs a rebound start. His last 2 starts haven’t been bad, they’ve just been lackluster. He battles like nobody else on this staff when he doesn’t have his best stuff.
This Pittsburgh offense is one that will give a pitcher a chance. They aren’t scary at all.
Wednesday, 12:35pm: Jon Niese v. Charlie Morton
Niese needs a big time bounce back start here. He threw 77 pitches in the Toronto trouncing. It seemed like Toronto knew what he was going to pitch before he threw it. Let’s hope he isn’t tipping pitches!
Morton puts the ball in play, he’s not a big strikeout guy, so the Mets should have plenty of opportunity to score runs in this game.
Because of that, this game is totally in Niese’s hands. I believe he’ll get the run support, so he will need to keep the Pirates offense quiet.
View From Their Window:
Today, I had a chance to sit down with Charlie Wilmoth from Bucs Dugout!
1) As a Pirates fan, can you describe your feelings toward Jason Bay since he joined the Mets?
The Pirates didn’t get much in return when they traded him, but they traded him at the right time, since his decline has been predictable. I’ll remember his seasons as a Pirate very fondly, however.
2) On Tuesday the Mets will see James McDonald, do you think McDonald is turning into a legitimate ace for Pittsburgh?
“Ace” probably isn’t the right word. Offense is down around baseball, and there are lots of young pitchers who are doing very well. I do think he’s taken a step forward, though, particularly with regard to his efficiency (which has allowed him to work deeper into starts than he used to). His breaking stuff has also been filthy this year.
3) If you could pluck one player off the Mets and put him on the Pirates for the duration of McCutchen’s contract (2018), who would it be and why?
It would have to be David Wright, wouldn’t it? I’m not sure what’s going on with Ike Davis this season, but a young left-handed hitter like that would also be nice to have.
4) The Pirates have played in 18 games decided by 1 runs. By comparison, the Mets have played in 12. What do you credit that towards? Bullpen issues? Bad luck?
I’m sure there’s some luck involved, but they’ve also played in a ton of low-scoring games, because their pitching has been pretty good and their offense has been atrocious.
5) If the Pirates win the series, who is the player of the series? If the Pirates lose the series, who is to blame?
I’d bet on Andrew McCutchen to be the player of the series if they win it. McCutchen has an OPS+ of 162; no one else on the team is above 100. If the Bucs lose the series, I’ll place the blame on GM Neal Huntington, who assembled the Pirates’ offense. Not that I want to put too fine a point on that, but it’s usually more difficult to pick out a single player responsible for a series loss than a single player responsible for a series win.
I believe this series will be Ike’s last chance to show the Mets something. I think Tejada will be back soon, which means a roster move will have to be made. Right now, Ike is hurting more than he’s helping. So this series will be huge for him if he doesn’t want to go to Buffalo.
The Pirates had a solid bullpen last year, and have one again this year. They play in a ton of close games. The Pirates have played in 23 games decided by 2 runs or less. Luckily the Mets are 13-5 in games decided by two or fewer runs. That ranks them #2 in MLB behind Baltimore’s 16-4 record.
The Mets have to take advantage with runners in scoring position. The Pirates do not have a lot of offensive fire power. The Mets are hitting .274 (49-179) with runners in scoring position and two outs, ranking first in the NL and fourth in the majors.
Andrew McCutchen is a star in the making right now. He’s the biggest threat to the Mets in this series. If they keep him quiet, the Mets should be able to take this series, if not sweep it!
OVER/UNDER RUNS: (7-3 on the season) Tonight’s over/under is set to 7. I believe the Mets will come out swinging and beat up Bedard, and mop up Pirates. Tomorrow, I’m looking at a low scoring game. Possibly a 3-2 final. Then you never know with a getaway day what you will get. So we’ll set the over/under at 22.5 and shoot for the UNDER.
METS POTS:I’m gonna give it to Ike Davis, mostly because I hope he doesn’t go to Buffalo.
KEEP YOUR EYES ON:James McDonald. He has the stuff to absolutely shut down the Mets on Tuesday night.
I’LL BE DRINKING A:Dos Equis! Why? Because I am talked about so much lately, that I must be the most interesting man in the world!
Enjoy the series, and Let’s Go Mets!
About the Author: Michael J. Branda
My time with MMO began in July of 2009 when I wrote a Fan Post defending Omar Minaya (before it was cool to do that.) I grew up a Mets fan with the mid 1980's teams. My favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, I like to think I meet in the middle. I believe thinking of new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the same way has not produced results. However, I think over-thinking certain situations can get you into trouble. I'm excited for the new regime, because I believe they have pieces in place to focus on several aspects of the Mets organization. I've waited this long for a World Series, waiting a few more years for another chance isn't going to kill me.
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