Monday began the most important stretch of the season for the New York Mets. They started the first of two series with the first place Washington Nationals leading into the All Star break. Well, things did not go as planned as the bad news mounted both on and off the field. New York was swept by the Nats, dropping them to 40-37, in third place and six games behind first place Washington in the National League East. To make matters worse, concerns are mounting about the health of Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. They now return to Citi Field to play the team with the best record in the National League, the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubbies sit at atop the National League Central with a mark of 51-26, 11 games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals. They recently endured their own tough stretch, losing six out of seven games prior to the start of this week. Chicago righted themselves by heading into Cincinnati and sweeping the Reds. That left their record in June at an ordinary 16-11 after a near-historic 35-15 run during the first two months of the season. It is safe to say the team has wrapped up their division and is now prepping themselves for another deep playoff run.
The offense was and remains outstanding. Ben Zobrist, the object of the Mets’ affection this offseason, has ten home runs and 42 RBI’s and ranks sixth in the Majors with a .409 on-base percentage. First baseman Anthony Rizzo is right behind Zobrist with a .407 OBP and is tied for the team lead in RBI’s with 58. The other guy with 58 RBI’s is third baseman Kris Bryant whose 21 home runs is tied for third among all hitters and his 61 runs scored ranks fourth. Bryant is coming off a historic game on Monday in which he became the first player to hit three home runs and stroke five doubles in one game. Just imagine how much better this offense would be if Jason Heyward wasn’t hitting .235. The Mets will not see Dexter Fowler and his .398 OBP as he is on the disabled list with a hamstring injury.
The Cubs are not just all about offense. Their one-two combination of Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester just might be the best duo in the game right now. Believe it or not, Lester actually has the better ERA at 2.03. He has dominated in six June starts with a record of 4-0 and a 1.41 ERA. Arrieta sports a fine 2.10 ERA but has been hittable as of late. Four of his last seven outings have resulted in him going only five innings and not having the same type of dominance we saw earlier in the year. The rest of the rotation has been outstanding as Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks have ERA’s of 2.58 and 2.76, respectively while John Lackey is the “slacker” at 3.29. There will be speculation that the Cubs will upgrade their bullpen but the crew led by Hector Rondon has been terrific. Each man, with the exception of Justin Grimm, have been allowing less than three runs per game.
With the Mets reeling, this is Chicago’s chance to at least get a little bit of revenge for last year’s NLCS demolition. While they may not leave New York burying the Mets, they sure can begin the process of shoveling. If the Cubs manage to take three of four games, the Amazins’ season will be officially be in turmoil, if it is not already. If the Mets can get off the deck and actually win this series, then consider their season salvaged. These teams will meet for the last time this season at Wrigley Field from July 18th-July 20.
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