Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 69-61   Mets 67-61

GAMETIMES: Tuesday-Thursday 6:10

TV: NBCSN Tuesday/Wednesday, ABC 7 Thursday

OUR DAY WAS RUINED: Amazin’ Avenue

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Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Mets Spotlight

It feels like this season is on the precipice now, doesn’t it? And three games in Queens only exacerbates that. Queens. The Black Cat. Victor Fucking Diaz. The Goddamn Mets. Arrieta running out of gas in ’15. Daniel Motherfucking Murphy. If they asked you where any Cubs season was most likely to come totally unglued, you’re picking right off the 7 train and you know it.

The Cubs sit three games out, which feels significant, though the Cardinals won’t get to play the Rockies and decomposing Brewers the rest of the season. They’ve just come off getting swept at home, and are now staring down the gun of the meat of the Mets pitching staff. Their lineup feels like it was exposed against the Nationals, though that’s just three games. They have a whole bunch of questions and a dearth of answers. That teetering feeling is real.

So what do the Cubs have to get past here to remain on terra firma? They already spent a week not getting Jeff McNeil out earlier in the season, so that’s on the list. It’s not a great offense in Queens, as past Alonso and McNeil there isn’t that much. Michael Conforto has the sweetest swing and looks like he should hit .330 every year, but he hasn’t yet though he still gets on base a ton. J.D. Davis has juiced the lineup a bit from left field, though he probably should be playing third, but it’s a top-heavy crew. Still, Alonso already has 41 homers and can get the Mets close to a lot of wins by himself. When the Cubs need big out against him or McNeil or Conforto…well, you know the drill.

A string of Marcus StromanNoah SyndergaardJacob deGrom is just about the last thing you’d ask for when you need at least two wins, but the Cubs blew the chance to get past the Nats when they didn’t have to see Scherzer or Corbin and actually came out tied with Strasburg. So now they have to do it the hard way. Stroman doesn’t get the mass amount of grounders he used to, and has had pretty big walk problems. Thor and deGrom are Thor and deGrom though, so Hendricks and Lester are just going to have to be at the top of their games. No other way around it.

And if you can hang close with the starters of the Mets, the bullpen is aching to give it all back to you. Edwin Diaz has been a mess all season, same goes for Jeurys Familia, and they’ve been making up the rest along the way. Of late, they’ve been counting on Justin Wilson for big outs, which is a choice. Luis Avilan has been good the last month, but never count on Mickey Callaway to make the right choices at the right times. Again, this is the Mets. You have to allow them the platform to be the Mets.

And they come in licking their wounds as well. They just got swept at home by the Braves and their wildcard hopes are on the line here. They’re two games behind the Cubs, which is something the Cubs have to be aware of now. Since that big streak to get back into things they’re 5-7, so they need to find it again.

There’s also the road woes to consider for the Cubs, which eventually might be their undoing. On the other side, they did win their last road series in Pittsburgh/Williamsport. We keep saying it’s time for the Cubs to stand up, be counted, show what they really are. But at this point, it’s hard to conclude they’re anything else than what they’ve shown. Which means if they continue their wayward/doofus ways this week, they may find the division is already over. And then the questions they’ll have to answer are a lot harder than the ones they biffed after last season.

Baseball

It seems a long while ago that Michael Conforto was bursting on the scene in 2015. While at the time the Mets had already rolled out Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz in their rotation, Conforto was the first shot in a homegrown lineup to match the rotation. Conforto lit up the National League for the last two months of the season, with a .509 slugging, 133 wRC+, and a .359 wOBA and was along for the ride to the World Series that year. After trading for Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets looked to have their outfield set for a bit, at least in the corners.

But never doubt the Mets ability to be the Mets.

Conforto struggled in his first full go-around in the majors, as players tend to do. But mostly it was due to some rotten luck, and Conforto was still was getting on base through walks, hitting the ball pretty damn hard, he just couldn’t get anything to fall. It earned him a brief demotion back to Triple-A, which opened up space for the Mets to acquire…Jay Bruce? Yep, that’s right. The Mets ended that season with an outfield of Curtis Granderson, Cespedes in center (where his graham cracker ligaments were always going to do really well), and Bruce in right, making an excellent impression of the old people and their walkers doing their laps around the mall. Needless to say the looks on the Mets pitchers’ faces as line drives and fly balls kept falling into open spaces while that trio wheezed and gagged over to them would have been Websters-worthy of “bemused.”

Again, never doubt the Mets ability to be the Mets, because they re-signed Bruce and then tried to cram Conforto in center, where he had never really played. And trying to cover for Bruce and Cespedes, when he wasn’t disintegrating, or whatever Granderson had left, wasn’t exactly the place to learn the position. Conforto did hit the shit out of the baseball though, with a 147 wRC+ as he was shuffled around and to the bench.

The Mets seemingly got the message last year, though Cespedes showing up in the morgue might have helped with that. After brief flirtations with Austin Jackson and Jose Bautista, the proverbial poking dead bodies with a stick, the Mets allowed Conforto to play left every day and Brandon Nimmo to play center.

They’ve moved Conforto over to right this season, and he’s responding with one of his best offensive season. His walk-rate is a career-high, and his slugging and other numbers are around his ’16 level. Conforto’s line-drive heavy ways are back from a year hiatus as well.

The difference appears to be Conforto’s production on slower pitches. He’s always been a “Can Pull A Bullet” guy, but struggled with change-ups and curves. This year he’s hitting those at a .250 and .267 clips, which are way above his career norms. That helps buttress his usual fireworks on the hard stuff (.289 and .579 slugging).

Even better for Conforto is he no longer has to carry this lineup after everyone gets hurt. Pete Alonso is odds on to win the NL Rookie Of The Year with his homer-a-day policy. That doesn’t mean the Mets haven’t totally been the Mets, as their trade for Robinson Cano is looking like another piece of Queens genius as Cano has caught Cespedes ligaments and health and hasn’t been any good when he has been around. And thanks to that lineup and some injuries in the rotation the Mets haven’t been able to vault themselves into the NL East discussion, which the Braves look like they might turn moot soon anyway.

Still, at least Conforto didn’t get completely buried by Mets-iness. It’s killed many before him.