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5 things to watch as Mets close out first half with weekend series against Padres

July 5, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; New York Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run in the ninth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Here are five things to watch as the Mets close out the first half of the season with a three-game set against the San Diego Padres starting on Friday night…

1. Can the Mets keep rolling into the break?

Well we’ve reached that point already, as this weekend the Mets will play their final series of the first half of the 2023 season.

While it’s been a bit of a disappointing stretch, to say the least, the Mets are somehow still in this thing, and they’re absolutely rolling right now.

They’re currently riding a five-game winning streak, coming off a series sweep of the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks, and they’ve won back-to-back series for the first time since May.

Both the offense and the pitching staff are clicking right now and they’re going to have to keep stacking wins.

They now face a Padres team who has had just as disappointing a first half as they have. San Diego currently sits in fourth place in the NL West, although they are also coming off a series win.

The Mets will look to continue their good stretch and head into the All-Star Break on a high note.

2. Francisco Alvarez’s power surge

After a bit of rough patch at the plate, Francisco Alvarez seems to be settling into a groove. The 21-year-old has been red hot and continues to show that he lives for the big moment.

Alvarez launched a 467-foot go-ahead homer (the longest of his career) in Tuesday afternoon’s series opening win, breaking the Mets rookie catcher single-season home run record in the process.

He followed that up with another clutch moment just a day later. With the Mets down to their last out, Alvarez fought off some tough pitches and then cracked a game-tying homer, propelling the team to a huge comeback win.

He picked up two more hits in the series finale win on Thursday night, including another two-run homer. Over his last seven games, four of his seven hits have left the yard.

Alvarez now leads all catchers and ranks second among rookies with 16 home runs. Five of those homers have been a game-tying or go-ahead blast, which currently leads all of baseball.

The youngster is turning things around at the plate and he’ll look to keep that power stroke going in San Diego.

July 6, 2023;  Phoenix, Arizona, USA;  New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) dives into third base for a triple against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the third inning at Chase Field.

July 6, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) dives into third base for a triple against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the third inning at Chase Field. / Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

3. Will Lindor build off his big night?

Francisco Lindor was sick enough prior to Wednesday night’s game against the Diamondbacks that he had to have fluids administered to him through an IV.

The star shortstop went on to play the full nine innings, and just a day later, he enjoyed perhaps his best performance of the season.

Lindor started off the game with a pair of triples in each of his first two at-bats. He became the first player in franchise history to record a pair of three-baggers in the first three innings of a game.

After singling in his next at-bat, Lindor cracked a solo home run to deep right center in the sixth. Two innings later, in his final at-bat of the night, he led off the eighth with a single to cap off a tremendous performance.

Lindor finished a double shy of the cycle but went 5-for-5 with two singles, two triples, a homer, three runs scored, and an RBI.

He’s now hitting .321 with a .415 OBP, 1.075 OPS, four homers, two triples, a double, seven RBI, and four stolen bases over his last 15 games.

Lindor certainly deserved a spot on the National League All-Star Team as he leads all shortstops with 18 homers and 57 RBI on the season.

He’ll look to carry this big performance into the weekend series.

4. Can Peterson keep rolling?

Since returning to the big leagues, David Peterson has been money for the Mets’ rotation.

He’s provided back-to-back solid outings against the Brewers and Giants, allowing just one run across 10 innings of work. He wasn’t able to pass the fifth inning his last time out, but he was still effective.

Peterson has looked much more confident and comfortable attacking big league hitters this time around. He’s walked three batters in each of his last two starts, but he’s been effective enough to work out of danger.

Peterson lacked that quality often times earlier this season, as evidenced by his 6.61 ERA.

If Peterson can put together another strong start the Mets are going to have a decision to make with Jose Quintana likely returning after the All Star Break.

Perhaps Carlos Carrascowho has struggled but just put together his best start of the season, may be forced to the bullpen or New York could turn to a six-man rotation.

Either way, the southpaw will look to keep rolling as he faces off with Blake Snell in the second game of this series on Saturday night at 10:10 pm on SNY.

5. Gary Sanchez revenge series?

With Tomas Nido and Omar Narvaez on the injured list, the Mets picked up Gary Sanchez on a minor league deal to try to help build some depth behind the plate.

The move came up short, though, as Sanchez appeared in just three games in his return to New York, and he recorded just a single hit. Alvarez was also just beginning his red hot stretch so he ended up taking the bulk of the playing time.

The Mets ultimately decided to DFA Sanchez and he went on to sign a deal with the Padres shortly after.

Since then, Sanchez has had a bit of an up-and-down time.

Early on he went on a homer barrage, going deep six times over his first 15 games. However, since then Sanchez has returned to his sluggish form.

He has just one home run and five RBI while striking out 12 times over his last 15 games. Sanchez is now down to a .191 average and .668 OPS with two doubles and seven homers through 32 games in a Padres uniform.

Often times the Mets give up someone and they come back to haunt them later on in the year. We’ll see if they can keep the struggling Sanchez at bay during this three-game set.

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