The story of the New York Mets, at least on the field, has been a simple one: They just can’t score runs. Despite having a top home run hitter, two of the best middle infielders in the game and a bunch of other guys who have been well-above-average at the plate in their careers, New York is among the lowest-scoring teams in baseball. As a result, it needs to have a miraculous final 17-game stretch to play into October.
With their chances in the National League East looking worse and worse every day — the Mets are 5½ games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves — the second Wild Card spot is their best chance. But, they’re stuck behind four other teams and are 3½ games off the pace. They also are playing one of those four teams they’re chasing.
The St. Louis Cardinals won the series opener 7-0 on Monday night behind another incredible start from ageless wonder Adam Wainwright, who completely shut the Mets down in New York’s 12th shutout loss. Righty Jake Woodford will get the call on Tuesday night for St. Louis against Marcus Stroman for New York. First pitch from Citi Field in Queens is at 7:10 p.m. ET. The BetUS Sportsbook has the Mets as -170 moneyline favorites while St. Louis is at +150. MLB odds have the over/under at eight runs.
New York Power Outage
The Mets’ offensive struggles have been very surprising, albeit partially related to the rash of injuries they seemed to deal with non-stop for a few months. Pete Alonso, Jonathan Villar, Brandon Nimmo (when healthy) and Javier Báez (since coming to New York from the Chicago Cubs) have all put together great seasons, but basically every other position player has drastically underperformed. As a result, the Mets have scored the fourth-fewest runs in baseball and rank 25th in home runs, 23rd in OPS and 25th in slugging percentage.
The numbers are bad across the board and it’s due to the non-existent bats of Jeff McNeil, Dominic Smith and Michael Conforto. All three of those guys have been key members of a solid Mets offense the last few seasons but have each fallen off a cliff this year. Big offseason pickup Francisco Lindor was equally disastrous through the first half, yet has been swinging a hot bat for a while now and recently hit three home runs in a crazy game to beat the crosstown rival New York Yankees. Newcomer James McCann has also been really bad offensively after signing a four-year, $40 million contract this winter.
The lack of runs has wasted a solid season from an extremely banged-up pitching staff, which has been without Jacob deGrom for months and essentially has an entire starting rotation on the injured list. That’s how it always seems to go for the Mets, who haven’t been able to combine strong hitting and strong pitching in the same season since 2016.
With that said, the Mets aren’t a “bad” team in the conventional sense. They’ve played the most one-run games in baseball (58), have lost the most one-run games (30) and recently snapped a streak of 13 consecutive losses in one-run games. Those numbers suggest that the Mets have issues in close games, especially with getting that one clutch hit with runners in scoring position, but also that they’ve been pretty unlucky, too. It’s a good thing to keep in mind if you’re betting online on or against this team.
Stroman’s Underrated Dominance
He might not garner much Cy Young Award attention, but Stroman is having one of the better seasons in the National League. After opting out of the 2020 season, he is tied for the most starts in baseball (30) and has a 2.87 ERA in 163 innings. Stroman doesn’t go particularly deep into games but has been great at preventing damage. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 22 of his 30 starts and has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his last seven starts.
Since deGrom went on the injured list, Stroman has been the Mets’ best starter and has been able to hold together a rotation that seemed headed for disaster because of injury and the sudden ineffectiveness of All-Star Taijuan Walker. When Stroman is on the mound, the Mets know that they have a good chance to win as long as they can actually score some runs.
The MLB lines reflect how well Stroman has pitched because the Mets are pretty big favorites against a Cardinals team that is playing great baseball right now. The heart of St. Louis’ lineup is scary but with Stroman’s pitch movement, command and ground-ball tendencies, he matches up well with it.
The Mets will be happy to see Woodford on the mound instead of Wainwright. In his second season, Woodford has mostly been used out of the bullpen. But, prior to a monthlong demotion to Triple-A Memphis, he was slotted into the rotation to help patch together a staff that has also been ravaged by injury.
Since he was called back up 10 days ago, Woodford has been a lot more effective than he was before he got sent down. In two (short) starts against the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers, he has only allowed five hits and one earned run across nine innings. He could have figured something out in Memphis.
Still, though, Woodford isn’t fully stretched out and is facing a desperate Mets team that did manage to score 24 runs over the weekend against the Yankees. He could run into trouble against a red-hot Lindor or Villar and will have to give way to a thin St. Louis bullpen pretty early on in the game. So, as far as MLB picks today go, give the Mets’ runline strong consideration.
Pick: New York Mets -1½ runs (+120)