Henry Owens

Weekend Preview: Red Sox vs. Mets

It’s Friday! That means it is time for a preview of the Red Sox’s weekend series.

This weekend the Sox will play their second-to-last interleague series, travelling to New York to take on the first-place Mets. Dave Dombrowski will continue his evaluation of the current squad, especially the young players, as he works out the 2016 roster. Losing the designated hitter spot would typically be an annoyance, as it requires moving offensive studs like David Ortiz or Hanley Ramirez to the bench. But with the season lost, getting those guys some rest and focusing on the development of Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Travis Shaw, and Rusney Castillo is the best approach and removes some of the sting that comes with losing the DH.

New York Mets – Record (7056) – Projected Record (9072)

The New York Mets are in first place in the National League East, which continues to be a surprise. The Washington Nationals were projected to win the division easily, while most thought the Mets would battle the Miami Marlins for second place, and a possible wild card spot. But, as we know, that has not how things have played out. The Nationals have struggled with injuries and poor play, while the Mets have paired a terrific, young pitching staff (459 runs allowed ranks 4th lowest in baseball), with an offense that does enough (511 runs scored ranks 19th highest in baseball) to keep them at the top of the NL East standings. However, as Joe Sheehan recently wrote, the NL East is a terrible division. As a group, the teams in the NL East are 123-123 (.500) against each other and 165-221 (.427) against NL Central, NL West and American League teams. The Mets have taken advantage of the unbalanced schedule and their weak division, beating their intra-division foes to the tune of a 33-17 record (.660), while treading water against everybody else (37-39, .487). Simply put, the NL East is an inferior division that has to send somebody to the playoffs, and right now it looks like the Mets will be that somebody, but they are not necessarily an intimidating first-place squad.


Game 1: Henry Owens vs. Matt Harvey, Friday, 7:10pm EDT

Owens is still getting his feet wet as a major league starter, and we have seen the ups and downs that come for young starters when Owens has been on the hill. In his four starts, two have been mediocre, one was poor, and one, his last outing, was excellent. Last Friday’s start against the Royals is an example of what the Red Sox hope they will be consistently getting from this long-touted prospect. Ideally, Owens can build on this recent, successful outing and continue to work deeper into games, getting strikeouts when he can, and most importantly, avoid walking batters. He has only walked one batter in three of his four starts, which is a great sign for his progress and future success. We will also get to see Owens stand in the batter’s box this weekend, which could be interesting.

Matt Harvey’s performance since returning to major league mounds has been about as strong as it was before the elbow injury that caused him to miss 2014. In 2013 he posted a 2.32 RA9, 2.00 FIP, and 2.42 DRA, earning him a fourth place finish in the NL Cy Young race. To date, he has a 2.81 RA9, 3.43 FIP, and 3.44 DRA, which, while all higher than his previous marks, are still evidence of his excellence. His combination of a 95+ mph fastball and wipeout slider tends to lead to high strikeout totals, although on a rate basis he has been a little worse this year than in his other two years. Harvey heads a really strong Mets rotation, and has to some extent taken over from David Wright as the face of the franchise. He presents an opening test for the Red Sox offense, in a weekend that will be full of them.

Game 2: Joe Kelly vs. Jacob deGrom, Saturday, 4:05pm EDT

The Joe Kelly as starter experiment continues, and as much as I have railed against it continuing and hoped he would provide more evidence that he should not be a starter, he has actually been pretty good over his last four outings: 24.2 innings pitched, 21 hits, six runs, three home runs, eight walks and 20 strikeouts. However, it should be noted that those performances came against offenses that are ranked 7th, 17th, 27th and 29th by TAv, so not exactly juggernauts. Given this, it is difficult to tell if Kelly has truly figured out the starting pitching game or just feasted on weaker opponents. Regardless, I suspect that if he continues to pitch like he has, we should be ready for another year of his great stuff in the rotation.

The afternoon after battling Matt Harvey for an evening, the Red Sox get the joy of taking on last season’s NL Rookie of the Year, Jacob deGrom. deGrom, proud owner of a beautiful mane of hair, has actually been better than Harvey this year, posting a 2.57 RA9, 2.97 FIP, and 3.19 DRA, upping his (already high) strikeout rate from last season, while simultaneously decreasing his walk rate. While typically a dominant starter, he got blown up in his last start by, of all teams, the Phillies. In his disastrous outing he allowed seven runs on eight hits, three of which left the yard, in 2.2 innings. It was a clear outlier start that if he were given a mulligan for would lower his RA9 to 2.15. Alternatively, it could be an early sign that he is hitting a wall in terms of workload. His 157 innings to date is his highest total ever (including minor league seasons), and already 17 more than he threw last year. The Mets will want to monitor his workload as they advance toward the playoffs, and the Red Sox should aim to take advantage of facing him in a lowered state.

Game 3: Wade Miley vs. Noah Syndergaard, Sunday, 1:10pm EDT

Wade Miley keeps chugging along, taking the ball every fifth day, providing a sort of much needed consistency for the Red Sox this season. After consecutive solid starts, in which he threw at least seven innings and allowed fewer than three runs, Miley’s last outing was a step back. The White Sox knocked him around for 13 hits and five runs, the second time they have beaten him up this season. The Mets offense has been mediocre on the season, but has really been clicking over the last couple of weeks. By wRC+ they Mets’ offense has been second to only the Red Sox (!) in the last 14 days. Miley will need to be better than he was in his last outing if he is going to hold the Mets down.

Syndergaard, or Thor as he is commonly called, is the third part of the starting pitching monster the Mets have assembled. This season, his rookie campaign, has been very successful. Like the other two Mets starters the Red Sox will face this weekend, Syndergaard is proficient in striking batters out (26.6 K%) and limiting walks (5.9 BB%). After acquiring the 6’6” starter from the Blue Jays in the R.A. Dickey trade, the Mets took their time advancing him through their minor league system and the extra seasoning appears to have paid off; he looks like he is in the big leagues for good.

Opposing Lineup:

The Mets’ offense is not really the strong suit of the team (95 wRC+, .266 TAv), although with the additions of Yoenis Cespedes (.592 SLG, 7 HR) and Juan Uribe (.410 SLG, 5 HR), and promotion of outfield-prospect Michael Conforto (.500 SLG, 3 HR) have made the lineup more potent. David Wright is back in the mix, working his way back from a difficult back injury, and hitting a home run in his first plate appearance. But it is difficult to know what to expect from him at this point. It is doubtful that he is the .310/.370/.452 guy he has been in his 46 plate appearances this season, but also doubtful he is the .269/.324/.374 hitter he was in 2014. Somewhere in the middle is a safer bet. Just as Wright came back, Lucas Duda, who is having a solid season (129 wRC+, 21 HR), was placed on the disabled list with a back injury. So they are still not the group that was intended. Regardless, they have scored 77 runs in their last ten games, making life much easier for the vaunted pitching staff.






Curtis Granderson





Yoenis Cespedes





Daniel Murphy





David Wright





Michael Cuddyer





Wilmer Flores





Michael Conforto





Travis d’Arnaud






The lineup is likely to look different from what is above. Mets’ manager Terry Collins has used 108 different batting orders in the Mets’ 126 games. Ruben Tejeda (.272 TAv) is likely to see some time at shortstop, Juan Uribe will get in at third base, Juan Lagares (.248 TAv) will sparkle defensively in the outfield, and Anthony Recker (.196 TAv) can spare d’Arnaud at catcher.


The Red Sox offense will be in for a tough weekend against three really good starting pitchers, and the starters are running into an offense that has scored a lot lately. If the Mets continue their struggles outside the NL East then the Sox should be able to grab a couple of wins. Regardless, it will be worth watching some of the Sox’s young hitters stand in against top of the line pitching.

Photo by Andy Marlin/USA Today Sports Images

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