Yes, the Mets play the franchise’s 8,000th game tonight, and it will be the first they have ever played in Marlins Park. New York shouldn’t feel too out of place, though. The gigantic new digs have frustrated the Miami offense much like Citi Field did to the Mets when it opened in 2009.
Since getting swept by the Mets in Queens from April 24 to 26, the Marlins have finally gotten their act together. Miami is coming off of an 8-1 road trip in which they beat up on the Giants, Padres and Astros. Those aren’t the most killer opponents, to be sure, but the Marlins may be one of the only teams in the majors feeling as confident as the Mets right now.
The good news is that momentum is only as good as tomorrow’s starting pitcher. The bad news is that Mark Buehrle, Miami’s starter tonight, has been really good so far. With a 2.83 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 22 strikeouts and only six walks, Buehrle is feeling the effects of switching from the American League to the National League. He’s also been hanging out in some pitcher-friendly parks, with his last three starts coming in San Diego, Miami and Queens.
Buehrle’s last start was a complete game win over San Diego last week. His last start versus the Mets was a loss, but Buehrle pitched quite well in that one, with four strikeouts, one walk and two runs allowed in seven innings. Although Buehrle’s velocity only tops out in the mid-80’s, he throws a variety of pitches to fool his opponents. The Mets are a patient team, though, and their approach matches well with a pitcher who doesn’t try to overpower batters.
Opposing Buehrle on the mound will be Mets ace Johan Santana. So far this season, Santana has shocked most everyone by being a dominant pitcher after an off-season shoulder surgery that was supposed to limit his performance. Perhaps the most stunning thing has been the superb strikeout rate. With 34 punch-outs in 31 innings, Santana is striking out more than a batter per inning. He’s also only allowed one home run so far, which has helped the ERA stay below three.
The one start Santana made against Miami this season was probably his best so far. He struck out 11 batters and walked only two while allowing one run in a 2-1 Mets victory. In fact, Santana has been pretty dominant in every outing except for the embarrassingly short affair in Atlanta last month. In classic Santana fashion, Johan shook off the poor start and continued mowing down his opponents.
When Miami was swept by New York in April, the teams averaged just under five runs per game total, so it would be a mistake to expect a ton of fireworks this time around. That said, Miami’s offense has been pitiful in spite of bountiful talent in its hitting department. You’d think that a roster with Jose Reyes, Giancarlo Stanton, Hanley Ramirez, Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez would be better than 12th in the NL in wOBA (weighted on-base average), but that has been the case so far. That said, it would be a shock if Miami continued hitting this poorly throughout the season.
It’s been the Marlins’ pitching that’s kept them afloat this season. The staff, anchored by starters Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Carlos Zambrano, Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco, ranks third in the NL in ERA and third in FIP as well.
With the Marlins as talented as they’ve been all year, but now finally playing like it, the Mets will find it tough to continue their winning streak in the MIA.
Here’s the Mets lineup for tonight. I didn’t mention it before, but Ronny Cedeño has returned from the disabled list, and Vinny Rottino is being shipped back to Buffalo. It looks like Cedeño and Valdespin will share shortstop duties for now. Valdespin is probably a better hitter at this point, but Cedeño’s defense is infinitely more reliable.
Marlins lineup is here. Enjoy the game, everyone!