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The Most Important Week, Part 1: Strasburg vs. Stroman

The Season Begins TODAY.

Jeff McNeil by David is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Most Important Week, Part 1: Strasburg vs. Stroman

Estimated Reading Time: 6 Minutes

The Mets have gone 18-6 since the All-Star Break. The 2019 New York Mets, who limped into the second-half, are 12-2 over their last 14 games. The Mets, who placed two of their best arms on the deadline trade block along with their young closer who was acquired in a mammoth deal that sent away multiple top-100 prospects

Those Mets… are surging.

With the Kings of Queens making an improbable push, most pundits are asking the hard-hitting questions that Mets fans have begun asking themselves. Did we misjudge this Mets team all season? Will the Mets ever lose again?

While those kinds of questions seem hyperbolic and silly, the one question that remains unanswered is: Can the Mets keep this going?

I don’t know.

I thought they were done.

But I do know for certain that we’ll know a lot more about this Mets team after this upcoming week. We’ll know if they’re for real or not.

I’m not the only one to be pointing out that the Mets have beaten up on teams playing below .500, their total records coming in around .425. The Mets have a 31-16 record against teams under .500, and are a tough 28-40 against teams above .500.

The Mets can beat up teams their own size, but it’s when they step into the heavier weight class that things get interesting. In the month leading up to the All-Star Break, the Mets only faced teams with their heads above the .500 watermark. During that span, the Mets went 8-18, limping into the All-Star Break, ready to break up the roster and sell it for parts.

And then something interesting happened… They didn’t implode.

Now the Mets sit half a game back from the second Wild Card spot.

What a time to be alive! Ya Gotta Believe! #LFGM!

But seriously, the Mets beat up kids on the playground that were in the lower grades, and this week, they head to middle school to play with the big boys: The Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves.

The Nationals are doing quite well for a team that lost their All-Star Face of the Franchise to a division rival in the offseason. Like a spurned lover, the Nationals have tried to make it seem like they don’t miss Bryce Harper at all, and they’re succeeding as of late. With Anthony Rendon stepping up big time in a contract year, the Nationals find themselves 2 games ahead of the Phillies in the Wild Card and, barring a complete collapse, they could ruin Bryce’s debut season with his new club.

The Braves picked up where they left off in 2018. With the addition of Josh Donaldson in the offseason, and the seemingly endless parade of young arms coming from their farm system, the Braves seemed ready to compete from the jump. However, after trading punches within the division, the Braves took the top spot of the NL East on June 12th, and have yet to abdicate the throne. With a sizable lead in the division, the name of the game for the Braves is: “Keep Calm and #ChopOn.”

Despite their distance from the Mets, and consistent run of success, both teams have a lot to lose when it comes to being defeated by the Mets.

Let’s say Washington takes two games from the Mets in the series, and the Phillies, who are playing a cooler San Francisco team than the one from July, split their four-game series. If that’s the case, then the Nationals retain their top spot in the Wild Card, and the Phillies fall below the Mets.

Should Washington drop two games, the Phillies and Mets put them in a corner, and take the ball into their own hands. Watch, if the Nationals lose this series, things go into a full-blown tailspin. Over the next two weeks, the Nationals face the Mets the Reds, the Brewers, the Cubs, and the Pirates before being able to rest everyone against the absolutely abysmal Baltimore Orioles. The NL Central is a fickle beast, and the Nationals could be flung headlong into it after losing their Wild Card lead.

Every game of this upcoming series with Washington is of the utmost importance for both teams, which is why this will be a true slugfest.

The Mets have had more success against the Nationals than they should have this season. In their 13 games against Washington, the Mets are 8-5, good enough for a .615 win percentage. Not terrible, especially after you consider that the Mets hold a 35-41 record against the Nationals dating back to 2015.

Beating up on your division is the easiest way to get to the postseason. Don’t believe me? Ask Cleveland about 2018.

The first game of the series is easily the toughest test for the Mets, as they face Stephen Strasburg, who absolutely loves pitching at Citi Field. In his 20 starts against the Mets, Strasburg owns a 9-5 record, a 2.82 ERA, a 1.059 WHIP, holding Mets hitters to a .211 average. Of those 9 wins, EIGHT have come at Citi Field.

Stephen Strasburg’s career ERA is 3.20, his career WHIP a solid 1.092, and his BAA comes in at a nice .224. At Citi Field, Strasburg is otherworldly, posting a 2.18 ERA, a 0.996 WHIP, only allowing opposing hitters a .202 average. Strasburg is unbelievable in Queens.

Strasburg was equally unreal in the month of July. Over his 5 starts last month, Strasburg was a perfect 5-0, with a 1.14 ERA, a 0.916 WHIP, stifling bats to the tune of .190 against his enemies. July has historically been a solid month for Strasburg, normally putting up his second-best numbers of the year.

However, there is often a drop off in August, and this year is no exception. In his first start of the month, Strasburg got roughed up to the tune of 9 earned runs over 4.2 innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks. So which Strasburg will show up to Citi Field? It’s a toss up, but it’s probably not the one the Mets will want to see.

On the mound for the Mets is Marcus Stroman.

That’s my favorite sentence, and it’s not one I thought I’d be saying this year… Or ever…

The former Blue Jay’s de-facto Ace is looking for a bounce-back start after a difficult first outing for the Amazins. Stroman only went 5 innings against the middling Pirates, but a tough strike zone from Bill Welke made Stroman and opposing pitcher Chris Archer‘s night’s shorter and more frustrating. Both Archer and Stroman threw upwards of 30 pitches in the first as Welke struggled to find his zone. It’s hard to watch a grown man embarrass himself like that.

During Stroman’s time with the Blue Jays, he started 17 games against National League teams. Within those games, it becomes clear as to why the Mets wanted him on their squad; he dominates the NL.

With a 10-5 record in tow, Stroman heads into Friday’s matchup against the Nationals with a 2.93 ERA and a 1.123 WHIP against National League teams. IF he can replicate those numbers and keep the Nationals bats at bay, Stroman could help the Mets steal a curly W from Washington.

No matter how you look at this week, and more specifically this weekend, these are must-win, postseason-type games for both clubs. These are the series that make or break a season. The ones that truly set you on the path to glory. And tonight, two teams who no one thought would be fighting for that chance at immortality square off.

It’s August. And we already have playoff baseball on our hands. Isn’t life sweet?


Justin Colombo is a 2017 Broadway Show Softball League All-Star at 3B/SS. He's essentially the Manny Machado of the Kinky Boots team. Justin has been writing about Baseball since he was a little kid. Now that being an actor in NYC has given him a lot of free time, in 2015 he decided to take his passion public and founded Three Up, Three Down as a way to express his love for the game. From there, Three Up, Three Down grew from a hobby to an obsession. After years of growth and one insult from MLB's Historian, Justin launched The Turf, a way to expand into all areas of the sporting world. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. LET'S. GO. METS.

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