The Orioles are a losing team that seems to be going nowhere in what’s left of the 2020 season. The Mets are a team grasping to pull itself into one of the expanded playoff spots. These teams are so committed to these opposite paths that they pulled off a trade with each other only yesterday, where the Orioles sent Miguel Castro to New York for pitching prospect Kevin Smith, plus a player to be named later or cash.
That much is true, and so is this: These teams will meet about 24 hours after pulling off that trade and the Orioles will bring a better record into that game than the Mets will. The O’s, at 15-19, have a slight edge on the Mets, who are 15-20. The crew from Queens have lost four in a row heading in to their first time playing the O’s this season.
The Mets, of course, are in a bit of a different place than the Orioles. They have had some bad luck and have underachieved to end up where they are. There is more of an expectation that they have the talent to be better than this, whereas the O’s are sinking towards the level where they were expected to be.
There’s also a general weakness in the middle of the National League in this strange 2020 campaign. Two different .500 teams are currently in postseason spots in the NL. Getting to .500 doesn’t sound so hard. The Mets need to go 15-10 over their last 25 games to get there. It’ll be harder for them if they can’t bank some wins against the post-selloff Orioles.
The Mets offense
This team entered play on Monday batting .264 overall, third-best in the NL, with an NL-best .349 on-base percentage. They have a relatively young outfield that O’s fans, who’ve been hoping for an outfield of the future for a while, can only envy:
LF - Dominic Smith (25) - .326/.404/.685
CF - Brandon Nimmo (27) - .241/.397/.464
RF - Michael Conforto (27) - .317/.421/.496
Whatever three players you like the best out of the crop of young O’s outfielders and prospects right now, they will probably never be as good as this trio is right now.
Add to that a resurgent Robinson Cano (.375/.411/.648 through 26 games), hopes that the reigning NL Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso will look more like the guy who hit 53 homers last season than the guy who’s got a .718 OPS so far this season, and the acquisition of Robinson Chirinos to bolster their catching situation and Todd Frazier to bolster the corner infield and bench, and this is a group from whom they are probably hoping for more good things.
The Mets rotation
Way back in the before times, when spring training was first getting under way, the Mets had this whole starting pitching thing figured out. Take back-to-back Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, add recent Mets mainstays Noah Syndergaard and Stephen Matz, plus last year’s trade acquisition Marcus Stroman and this offseason’s free agent signing Rick Porcello, and that’s a team that’s got its rotation figured out.
Reality had other plans. Syndergaard had Tommy John surgery just days prior to the originally-scheduled Opening Day. Stroman made the choice to opt out of the 2020 season due to its COVID risks. Matz pitched poorly and is on the injured list. Porcello has a 6.00 ERA through seven starts.
Only deGrom has lived up to hopes, looking worthy of a third straight Cy Young for this shortened season. One bit of good news for the Orioles is that deGrom pitched yesterday, so he will not be available in the coming series.
Castro joins a Mets bullpen that has had a number of strong performers. Seth Lugo has done well in late innings, with a 2.12 ERA and a WHIP under 1 through 11 outings. Edwin Diaz has struck out an absurd 30 batters in 14 innings pitched, though he’s also issued eight walks. So far it’s worked: He has a 2.57 ERA. More surprising guys are Chasen Shreve (2.35 ERA, 0.848 WHIP through eight outings) and Jared Hughes (2.70 ERA in 11 games). They’ve even got Brad Brach with a 2.25 ERA in his first eight games.
That’s a pretty strong group to roll with already. They shouldn’t even need Castro for too many high-leverage innings. I guess we will see how it goes for them.
The two games are scheduled for 7:35 Tuesday and 4:05 Wednesday start times.
As far as who is going to pitch, that’s more of a mystery. The Mets pitching staff has had to endure three doubleheaders in the last week, including on Friday and Sunday. That tends to use up starting pitchers.
The Orioles only have a pitcher listed for Tuesday. That’s Asher Wojciechowski, who over his first six starts is getting slightly worse results than last season. He was a fun story in 2019 but his 4.92 ERA at season’s end wasn’t very good. Now he’s got a 5.13 ERA, and his FIP doesn’t suggest bad luck at 6.02. Batters are hitting .270/.336/.540 off of Wojciechowski so far in 2020.