Here are five things to watch when the Mets and Reds play a three-game series in Cincinnati starting on Tuesday…
Scherzer will get the ball in Tuesday’s series-opener, and a big start from him would be huge for two reasons.
First, it would allow him to get the taste of last week’s start against the Detroit Tigers out of his mouth, and provide hope that he has fixed whatever has been ailing him — whether it’s adjusting to the pitch clock, some minor aches, the long layoff because of his suspension, or whatever combination it is that has him out of whack.
Second, the Mets getting a vintage performance from their struggling ace could help light a fire under a team that has been in a malaise.
Will Scherzer, who is still pitching through some discomfort, bounce back?
While there are definitely plenty of reasons to be concerned about how he’s looked, it is way too early to even think about writing off a pitcher who had the best ERA of his career in 2022 — with elite peripherals to match — and showed flashes of dominance earlier this season. But Scherzer has to prove he’s still that guy.
After allowing a pair of homers in the first inning of his Mets debut, Verlander looked like Verlander.
He got lots of swings and misses, his secondary stuff looked sharp, and he featured a fastball that sat mostly around 95 to 96 mph and topped out at 97 in what was his last inning.
Verlander was on a pitch limit of around 80 against the Tigers, but should be able to throw around 100 pitches against the Reds — and that will hopefully mean providing some serious length.
The Mets scored six runs in defeat against the Colorado Rockies on Sunday, but their offense has been mostly absent during a 3-11 stretch as their record has gone from 14-7 to 17-18.
In the four games before Sunday, the Mets scored one, zero, one, and two runs.
Their approach has been poor, their ability to make productive outs has largely gone away, and they haven’t hit the ball with much authority.
Part of this is due to there being some holes near the bottom of the lineup, and part of it has been due to Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso being in mini funks. But one thing that has helped the Mets all season is the performance of Starling Marte.
Marte helped make the lineup go last season, and he just hasn’t looked like himself — at the plate or in the field — so far after offseason groin surgery. In 30 games in 2023, Marte is slashing a paltry .213/.292/.278. His bat coming alive would be huge for an offense that has kind of lost its identity.
Greene will get the start on Wednesday against Verlander, and the Mets will know what’s coming most of the time. But will they be able to do anything with it?
The 23-year-old’s average fastball this season has come in at 99 mph, and has helped him strike out 47 batters in 33.2 innings. While Greene also features a changeup, he’s thrown it just 4.3 percent of the time. So he’s basically a two-pitch guy right now, utilizing his slider nearly 40 percent of the time and throwing the fastball 56 percent of the time.
Greene held his own last year in his rookie campaign, with a 4.44 ERA (4.37 FIP) and a strikeout rate of 11.75 per nine. This year, he’s improved in a big way.
His strikeout rate is up to 12.56, his walks are down a tick (3.21 per nine), and his home run rate is down substantially (0.80 per nine after being 1.72 in 2022).
With the Mets’ offense struggling to find its way, fans have been clamoring for the team to call up Vientos (who hit his 10th home run on Sunday), Mauricio, or both.
There are possible impediments when it comes to promoting them, though.
With Vientos, he’s probably best-suited as a DH who plays against left-handers. The Mets could decide to simply let him have the full-time DH job, but that doesn’t seem likely — at least at this point.
As far as Mauricio, he is still learning second base and might not be ready offensively.
Despite that, the Mets will likely have no choice but to call one or both of them up if the offense doesn’t pick things up soon.