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Orioles-Mets series preview: Back on the road to face a first place team

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The Orioles have played well on the road. The Mets have excelled at home. These two narratives collide for two games.

Baltimore Orioles v New York Mets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

One important thing to know about the 2021 New York Mets is that, on Friday night, two players had some kind of altercation hidden down the dugout tunnel and after the game, one of the involved players, $341 million extension man Francisco Lindor, claimed that he and teammate Jeff McNeil saw an animal in the tunnel and they were disagreeing about whether it was a rat or a raccoon.

This is the sort of ridiculousness you might expect to be tied to a team that is spiraling downward, in the middle of a seven-game losing streak or something like that. In fact, the Mets won a walkoff victory in the game that featured the supposed rat/raccoon debate. They won the two games after it for a series sweep, and they’d won the two games before it. So they’re actually working on a five-game winning streak and they are in first place in the NL East heading into this Orioles series.

A 9-4 record in home games is part of what has gotten the Mets into the division lead at this point in the season. The Orioles have been markedly better on the road, with an 11-6 record outside of Camden Yards to date. You could be dramatic about this two-game series and say it’s going to test these two trends, but a split of the set would hardly be decisive for any narrative like that.

There is one bit of good news for the Orioles heading into this two-game set. They will not be facing Mets ace Jacob deGrom and his 0.68 ERA. deGrom just pitched on Sunday, so he wouldn’t have been lined up for this series regardless, but that Sunday start was cut short due to concerns over side pain and now deGrom is on the injured list so the team can have him skip his next start without being short-handed on the roster.

This news only causes so much relief. The Mets #2 and #3 pitchers, Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker, have also been excellent to date. Through six starts, Stroman has a 2.12 ERA. Walker’s sits at 2.38. These guys have identical 1.029 WHIPs.

An Orioles offense that’s been challenged about run scoring is not going to have an easy time in these two games in New York. What’s more, the Orioles enter this series batting .210/.280/.356 against right-handed pitchers for the series. Stroman and Walker are both righties.

The same things that have led to that abysmal stat line will probably still be in effect in this two game set. There have been some signs for hope lately, with Ryan Mountcastle and Trey Mancini each hitting .333 over the last week.

Game 1: Tuesday, 7:10

John Means (4-0, 1.37 ERA) vs. Marcus Stroman (3-3, 2.16 ERA)

The aforementioned Lindor is batting .194/.315/.272 heading into this series. He might wish he’d gotten to face Orioles pitchers before now. The walk rate is working out for him and not much else is. A BABIP of only .205, substantially below his career mark of .295, is probably part of the explanation. He’s due to have his luck turn around.

Means, of course, will be making his first start since tossing the no-hitter in Seattle last week. It’ll be fun if he can get decently deep into the game without giving up a hit to challenge the Johnny Vander Meer record of consecutive no-hitters. It’s a theoretically possible feat with practically no chance of happening. On the other hand, the three best Mets hitters are on the injured list, so... there’s always something there for a dreamer.

Stroman allowed just two runs in 20 innings in his first three starts of the 2021 season. Since then, he’s given up six earned runs, plus five more unearned runs, in just 14 innings, without pitching deeper than five innings in any game.

Game 2: Wednesday, 12:10

Matt Harvey (3-2, 3.60 ERA) vs. Taijuan Walker (2-1, 2.38 ERA)

Harvey will be facing his former team for the first time since the Mets traded him away early in the 2018 season. That may fuel a few articles in the sports sections of the New York tabloids. A whole lot has changed with the Mets roster since then. They even have different owners now. The only former teammate Harvey might pitch to in this game is Michael Conforto.

Through seven starts, Harvey’s ERA of 3.60 looks fine. However, his most recent start had four unearned runs that were charged after Harvey had an error. If those runs had been earned, he’d be sitting at a much-less-fine 4.63 ERA. In 2021, that’s poor performance. This game will give us one more piece of data towards figuring out whether the real Harvey is good, bad, or somewhere in between.

I had no idea that Walker was on the Mets before sitting down to write this series preview. He signed a two year, $20 million contract with the Mets in February, with a $6 million player option for 2023.

Two things stand out on looking at his results from this season. Walker has allowed only one home run in 34 innings, which is incredibly impressive. He’s also lived up to his name by issuing 15 free passes, which adds up to a BB/9 of 4.0. Maybe this will not hurt him much against the Orioles, who have the third-fewest walks of any American League team.

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The Mets bullpen has also been a source of strength for them so far in the 2021 season. They’ve had only two losses charged to relievers through their first 29 games, lower than any other MLB team except for Oakland. Their bullpen ERA is 3.04, which was fifth-best in the league heading into Monday’s games. They will be rested heading into this series, as the Mets, unlike the Orioles, had an off day on Monday.

One part of that bullpen is former Oriole Miguel Castro, who was shipped to the Mets last year for prospects Kevin Smith and Mishael Deson. Castro has faced the second-most batters of any Mets reliever, behind only closer Edwin Diaz. His 2.77 ERA to date is the fourth-best mark in the Mets pen. A very recent addition to the Mets pitching staff is another former Oriole, Tommy Hunter, who’s yet to allow a run in two appearances.

On paper, this looks like a series where there will not be many runs scored. The starting pitchers have done well so far this year, and both teams have strong bullpens. There are a lot of times where a given baseball game defies the on paper expectations. There are also a lot of times where it does not. Your guess is as good as mine whether things in this series will surprise us.

Poll

How many games will the Orioles win in this series?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    2 (Orioles sweep)
    (40 votes)
  • 57%
    1
    (100 votes)
  • 19%
    0 (Mets sweep)
    (33 votes)
173 votes total Vote Now