Most Mets fans went into this road trip before the All-Star break worrying about a major losing skid. Heading off to play two American League divisional leaders on the road, followed by a Yankees team with the 2nd best record in the AL, the “feel good story” that has been the overachieving Mets in 2011 looked like it could be headed to an end, especially after the first game of the trip ended with a convincing 8-1 Rangers win.
But the Mets fought back to win the last 2 games, scoring 22 runs in the process and getting back to .500 yet again. They now have another shot at getting over the hump for the first time since early April, but they are playing one of the better teams in baseball- the Detroit Tigers.
Jim Leyland’s squad had been chasing the Indians all season, and this past week finally caught them and jumped into first place in the AL Central. Led by Victor Martinez (.336) and Miguel Cabrera (.332), the Tigers sport the 3rd highest team batting average in baseball (.268). They are also one of just 5 teams to be at least 10 games over .500 at home, so winning at Comerica Park will not be an easy task. The first two games seem winnable on paper, and if the Mets want the series they better take both of them. That is because the finale will be started by Justin Verlander, who is running away with the AL Cy Young before July.
6/28/11- R.A. Dickey (3-7, 3.76 ERA) vs. Rick Porcello (6-5, 4.50 ERA)
6/29/11- Chris Capuano (6-7, 3.99 ERA) vs. Phil Coke (1-7, 4.32 ERA)
6/30/11- Mike Pelfrey (4-6, 4.78 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander (10-3, 2.38 ERA)
Mets Player to Watch: Daniel Murphy
We all know how hot Jose Reyes has been the past week, and all season. But Daniel Murphy is quietly heating up again. After getting his average up over .300 Murph went into a mini slump, but since interleague play started back up he has hit in 7 of 9 games. Daniel is hitting .500 (9-18) over his last 5 games, and is a big part of this Mets lineup that has zero power whatsoever but IS great at getting on base. Murphy needs to continue to hit well going into the All-Star break if the Mets want to remain relevant.
Tigers Player to Watch: Justin Verlander
It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while the Mets face a dominant ace that I am actually excited to face. Normally, I dread seeing the stud pitchers, knowing it will be a tough draw for my team. But this series brings one of those few times that I am pumped to see one of the top pitcher’s in baseball face the Mets. Justin Verlander is pitching out of his mind. He has always been very good, but this is the best stretch of his career. He already has one no-hitter this year, nearly had another one a month later, and has won 6 consecutive starts, pitching into the 8th inning in all 6. The superlatives almost never run out for Verlander’s performance this year. he leads the AL in strikeouts, innings pitched, WHIP, and wins, and sits 4th in ERA.
Sure, the Mets might get shutout by Verlander. Hell, they could even get no-hit by the guy. But I am excited for the challenge. You don’t get to see your team face a pitcher this dominant very often. I am going to enjoy watching the finale of this series, even though I know there is a good chance the Mets will lose. Of course, my tune may change if the Tigers win the first two games. Ideally, the Mets will face Verlander going for a sweep. Then I can sit back, watch whatever unfolds, and enjoy.
The brutal stretch heading into the break continues, and the Mets need to just keep chugging along. One out of three is necessary, but two sure would be nice. This will be a tougher series than the Texas one in my opinion, but the Mets are playing well. Let’s get the opener, and then play with house money going for one of the final two. LETS GO METS!