The Week Ahead in New York Baseball

It is two weeks into the Major League Baseball season and the New York Yankees and the New York Mets sport identical 5-6 records. This could be the last day of the 2016 campaign both teams have the exact same mark so mark it down on your calendars. To say both clubs have been lackluster and lethargic is a bit of an understatement. The Mets and Yanks have been spotty offensively although the Amazins did score 17 runs in a three game set in Cleveland over the weekend.

This week, the New York teams take on a combined four teams that are all under .500. This represents a tremendous opportunity for each team to shake the early season malaise that is frustrating both sets of fanbases. Here is what you need to know.

Courtesy: sportsonearth

Courtesy: sportsonearth

Home for six games

After an off day Monday, the Bronx Bombers host the Oakland A’s for three contests. The A’s sit at 6-7 in the American League West and the Yanks have the good fortune of missing their best pitcher, Sonny Gray. Oakland shortstop Marcus Semien has been hot lately, with four home runs over the last week. Second baseman Eric Sogard was placed on the disabled list and is likely headed toward knee surgery. Relievers John Axford, Ryan Dull and Marc Rzepczynski have surrendered zero runs in a combined 18 1/3 innings while closer Sean Doolittle has struggled, allowing four earned runs in 4 2/3 innings.

After the A’s leave town, the Tampa Bay Rays come into town for a weekend series (yours truly will be at Sunday’s game).  The Rays are 5-7 and head to Boston before coming to New York.  Tampa’s ace right-hander Chris Archer has struggled to the tune of an 0-3 record and a 5.75 ERA. Right fielder Steven Souza, Jr. has been the Rays’ most productive hitter but has struck out an alarming 13 times in 34 official at-bats. Left-hander Matt Moore appears to be all the way back from Tommy John surgery, allowing six earned runs in 18 1/3 innings and striking out ten in his last start.

Alex Rodriguez smacked career home run number 689 on Sunday, snapping an 0 for 19 skid. Masahiro Tanaka became the first Yankees’ pitcher to go seven innings, as he allowed only two earned runs as the Yanks avoided a weekend sweep at the hands of the Seattle Mariners. Starlin Castro stole early season headlines with his bat but Carlos Beltran has been even better. The veteran switch-hitter has 14 hits in 41 official at-bats with three home runs. Surprisingly, Brian McCann leads the club with 11 runs scored. Johnny Barbato, Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances and Chasen Shreve have not allowed an earned run in 21 1/3 innings.

National League East rivals

The Mets continue their road trip with three games each in Philadelphia and Atlanta. Up first are the Phillies, whom the Mets dropped two out of three games to last weekend. The Phils are 6-7 on the strength of some outstanding starting pitching. The Mets are familiar with Vincent Velasquez who shut them out for six innings on April 9th. In his last start, the 23-year old right-hander fanned 16 in a complete game shutout of the San Diego Padres. Jerad Eickhoff, Monday’s pitcher, has given up only two earned runs in 12 innings pitched. Third baseman Maikel Franco has followed up his solid rookie campaign with 12 hits in his first 45 at-bats of the year.

After an off day on Thursday, New York heads south to face the “resurgent” Braves. After starting the season 0-9, Atlanta swept a weekend series in Miami against the Marlins. Right fielder Nick Markakis has been an offensive force with a .423 on-base percentage and 12 RBI’s. First baseman Freddie Freeman, a notorious Met-killer, has been slow out of the gate with only six hits in 36 at-bats. The Braves may have found a reclamation project in the rotation with right-hander Jhoulys Chacin. The 28-year old right-hander has allowed three earned runs in 11 1/3 innings with 14 strikeouts.

It is a mystery as to why Matt Harvey has struggled so much this season. If he can’t get it done against the anemic Braves’ offense, alarm bells were will be sounding. Noah Syndergaard gets two starts this week. He has been dominant so far with only one earned run allowed and 21 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings. Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto were on fire last week, combing for eight extra base hits in 39 at-bats with both hitting over .350 during that span. Curtis Granderson has started to hit recently though his average is still a laughable .156. With the uncertainty surrounding Jacob deGrom, expect to see another start this week from Logan Verrett.

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