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Red Sox vs. Mets Series Preview

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A look at the next four games on the Red Sox schedule.

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets
Rick Porcello
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The season is still happening, so I suppose our coverage of it is as well.

SB Nation Blog

Amazin Avenue

The Opponent in one sentence

The Mets have some questions in their rotation that have only gotten bigger due to injuries, but they have a legitimate ace as well as an offense that should keep them in contention in the NL East.

Record

1-2

Head-to-Head Record

0-0

Trend

Down. It’s tough to talk too seriously about trends after just one series, but like the Red Sox the Mets lost the last two games of their opening series, albeit to a much better team than the Orioles in the Braves. New York won their opening game on Friday, but they then had Edwin Díaz blow a save in a Saturday loss before Rick Porcello was shelled in a blowout loss on Sunday.

Pitching Matchups

Note: I’m considering both ends of the home and home as the same series, more out of ease for me than making any sort of statement about what is and isn’t a series. The first two of these games are at Fenway while the final two are in New York.

7/27: Josh Osich vs. Michael Wacha, 7:30 PM ET (ESPN)

For Monday’s game to kick off this four-game home-and-home against the Mets, we are going to see the first instance of an opener for the Red Sox. They said they used an opener sometimes last year, but in reality they were just going with a bullpen game. The plan for Monday’s game appears to be for Osich to get through the first inning and maybe a little bit in the second before handing the ball over to Zack Godley, who can hopefully go at least four innings. The strategy here is to make things easier for Godley. This way, by starting his outing halfway through the lineup he can go through that portion of the order three times while only facing the top hitters twice. Osich is the call to start here because the Mets have a lineup that skews lefty at the top, with three of their top four and four of their top six hitters from the left side most nights.

Wacha was one of a couple of additions made by the Mets to their rotation over the winter, and this will be his first start in his new uniform after spending his entire career to this point with the Cardinals. Early in his career he looked like the next stud to start games for St. Louis, but he never was able to keep up that consistency. He’s still had good years recently — he pitched to a 3.20 ERA in half a season in 2018 — but the righty has had some issues staying on the field and his performance has been more middling than impressive. Last season he actually spent a little time in the bullpen and overall he pitched to a 4.76 ERA in 126 23 innings with a 5.56 FIP and a 6.25 DRA. The big issue for him lately has been walks, so if he’s struggling to find the zone the Red Sox offense should be able to put some runs on the board. Wacha will feature a fastball that sits around 93 mph along with a changeup, a cutter and a curveball.

7/28: Matt Hall vs. TBD, 7:30 PM ET

The final two spots in the Red Sox rotation are totally up for grabs, and the left-handed Hall will get the first chance at that fifth and final spot. The former Tiger apparently looked good in camp, but we all know the regular season is a different beast than any sort of training camp environment. Just ask Ryan Weber. The 27-year-old has spent most of his career in the minors, with only 31 13 major-league innings under his belt, all in relief. In that time, he has pitched to a 9.48 ERA. In the minors, he’s shown some ability to rack up strikeouts, but also some command issues. I’d expect another move to come before this game to call up someone like Brian Johnson or Chris Mazza as well to perhaps form a bit of a piggyback.

The Mets have not announced who will be getting the start for their fifth game of the season. The options seem to be Corey Oswalt, David Peterson and Erasmo Ramírez.

7/29: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Jacob deGrom, 7:10 PM ET

We know the starting pitching is a major issue for the Red Sox, but they should get at least a serviceable outing every five days from Eovaldi as long as he is healthy. His first start of the year came against the Orioles, which is a necessary caveat even after they won two of three from Boston over the weekend, but he still looked good. The velocity was there as was the command, and when he is doing that he is tough to square up. After struggling with control all season in 2019, the most important part of that first start of the year was that he walked just one batter in six innings, particularly considering he did so while utilizing his cutter throughout the night. We’d all like more strikeouts, but if he can continue to command that cutter he should get the results we’re looking for. Of course, this will be a much bigger test for him.

To make matters worse for Eovaldi, he also has to go up against perhaps the best pitcher in all of baseball in deGrom. The running joke around the Mets ace is that he never gets any run support, which would bode well for Eovaldi, but even with that New York picked up a 1-0 win in his first start. It’s really hard to put into proper perspective just how good deGrom is, and even pointing out that he’s won back-to-back Cy Youngs may not do it justice. He’s coming off a season with a 2.43 ERA, and that was actually a 73-point jump from his previous season, and the peripherals have been there to more or less match those results through the years as well. He does everything well, and the Red Sox offense is going to have their hands full for this one. deGrom, a righty, will feature a fastball that sits in the mid-to-high-90s, along with a frisbee slider and a changeup.

7/30: Martín Pérez vs. Steven Matz, 7:07 PM ET (FOX)

The first impression for Pérez in front of Red Sox fans — or I guess I should say in front of cameras broadcast to Red Sox fans — was not good. We’ve said all winter that the issue for Pérez is that even if he is allowing soft contact he opens himself up to bad luck by giving up a ton of contact in general. We saw that on Saturday as the Orioles were the beneficiaries of some good fortune on balls in play. Of course, they also smoked a few balls against the lefties to jump out to the early 5-0 lead after just a couple of innings. To his credit, Pérez did settle down for his final few innings, but he will have a much bigger test against this Mets lineup for his second start.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox
Martín Pérez
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Matz has long been an intriguing arm for the Mets with solid strikeout stuff, but he’s had some trouble with injuries and when he’s been on the field the consistency hasn’t really been there. While the lefty has certainly shown some flashes, he tends to finish his seasons with stats that are hovering around the league-average mark. I mentioned the strikeouts, and he’s sat just below a strikeout per inning pretty much every year of his career, and the walk rate is fine, though not ideal, typically sitting a bit below three per nine innings. The issue has been quality of contact and specifically home runs. Despite being a solid ground ball arm, Matz consistently allows about 1.5 homers per nine innings. He looked good in his first start of the year, though, allowing just one run to the Braves over six innings with seven strikeouts and one walk. He will feature a two-seam that sits around 93 mph along with a changeup, a curveball and a slider.

Old Friends

Rick Porcello was a puzzling name to let walk for the Red Sox. Even after an up-and-down career in Boston, he would be a welcome addition to this rotation. Instead, he signed a one-year deal with the Mets and got off to a brutal start in a blowout loss to the Braves on Sunday.

Yoenis Céspedes is finally healthy and ready to go again for the first time since 2018 and hopefully for his first “full” season since 2016. He, of course, spent a short time in Boston before being traded for Porcello. Fittingly, the outfielder homered in his first game back.

Jed Lowrie’s problem in Boston was that he always struggled to stay on the field, and after leaving he bounced around the AL West for a while before getting to the Mets. He’s very solid when he’s healthy, but unfortunately that’s been rare and he is once again on the IL.

Eduardo Núñez signed a minor-league deal with the Mets last winter after not playing following his release from the Red Sox early last summer. He made the roster to start this season and will serve as infield depth.

Hunter Strickland has never pitched for the Red Sox but he was drafted by Boston but was claimed off waivers by the Giants before he made it to the majors.

Notable Position Players

Céspedes, as mentioned, is back. He is serving as the DH with that role being added to the NL this year, and is hitting in the middle of the Mets lineup.

Pete Alonso is coming off a monster rookie year in which he set a new record for homers by a first-year player. He has quickly emerged as one of the faces of this franchise and their top hitter.

Robinson Canó is coming off what is really his first down year in over a decade, and after giving up one of the best prospects in baseball to get him and Edwin Díaz the Mets are looking for a rebound from the long-time Yankee great.

Jeff McNeil is one of the more underrated players in baseball. He can play all over the diamond but mostly plays third base right now and over about a season and a half he has a career 139 wRC+.

Michael Conforto has turned into a key piece in this Mets lineup. He strikes out a little more than you’d like, but his high walk rates and above-average power more than make up for that.

Brandon Nimmo hits leadoff against righties and has been able to carry some of the highest walk rates in the game in recent years.

J.D. Davis was a big surprise addition to the Mets last season as he came out of nowhere to provide a big right-handed power bat who can move around the diamond a bit.

Wilson Ramos is getting up in age, but as long as he’s on the field he’s one of the better hitting catchers in the game.

Amed Rosario is a former top prospect, and while his bat is still developing he’s coming off a league-average year and he pairs that with good defense and speed.

Bullpen Snapshot

Edwin Díaz was arguably the best reliever in the game when he was traded from Seattle to New York prior to last season, but he struggled with the long ball all year in a frustrating 2019. He’s already blown his first save of 2020.

Dellin Betances missed basically all of last season, but with his time with the other New York teams Red Sox fans should be very familiar with just how good this big righty can be.

Seth Lugo serves alongside Betances as a setup arm, and he’s performed consistently well in that role the last two years with big strikeout stuff and solid control.

Justin Wilson is the top lefty in this bullpen and he’s shown an ability throughout his career to work around some real control problems.

Injuries

Lowrie, as mentioned above, is on the IL to start the year. He’s dealing with knee issues and his timetable to return is unclear.

Noah Syndergaard underwent Tommy John surgery not long after Chris Sale did and is going to miss this entire season.

Marcus Stroman went down with a calf tear during camp and it’s been described as a “week-to-week” injury.

Brad Brach is out for undisclosed reasons.

Robert Gsellman is out with a triceps injury, but he shouldn’t be far off from return.

Jared Hughes is back with the team working out after being absent for undisclosed reasons.

Walker Lockett is dealing with some back issues and it’s unclear how much time he’s set to miss.

Weather Forecast

It’s going to be extremely hot the next two days in Boston with thunderstorms in the area on Tuesday. Those should be out of the way by the time that night’s game starts, though. In New York on Wednesday and Thursday things look clear and hot as well.