MLB: Miami Marlins at St. Louis Cardinals

Cardinals Series Preview July 7-9

In their final series before the All-Star break, New York (38-45) visits Busch Stadium to face a streaky Cardinals (41-44) club that has dropped three of five after winning six of seven.

The Mets lost both games of a rain-shortened set against division-leading Washington earlier this week. St. Louis, four back in the loss column behind first-place Milwaukee in a surprisingly underperforming NL Central, has managed to stay in the mix despite playing sub-.500 ball since June 2.

With just over three weeks until the non-waiver trade deadline and facing daunting deficits in their own playoff races, all eyes will be on New York GM Sandy Alderson and the front office as they attempt to salvage what’s left of a lost season by selling off some of their assets.

One potential transaction that fans seem to be clamoring for would be a reunion with cult hero and clubhouse favorite Bartolo Colon, released by Atlanta on Thursday after enduring the worst stretch of his career (8.14 ERA, .330 TAv, -1.4 WARP over 13 starts). According to multiple reports, the Mets have already reached out to the 44-year-old’s representatives to discuss the possibility of bringing Colon back to Queens where he was a steadying presence in the rotation over the past three seasons.

As part of All-Star week, the SiriusXM Futures Game will be played in Miami on Sunday afternoon and will feature some of baseball’s top up-and-coming prospects. Representing the Mets will be catcher Tomas Nido and highly touted shortstop Amed Rosario, who will both play for the World Team. Nido was named as a roster replacement for recently promoted Cubs rookie Victor Caratini, while Rosario (.320 AVG, 7 HR, 52 RBI, 14 SB in in 82 games for Triple-A Las Vegas) joins a group of well-known infielders including Yoan Moncada and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.

Outfielder Michael Conforto (.953 OPS in 69 games) is expected to be the Mets’ lone representative in the main event on Tuesday. Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez and catcher Yadier Molina will also suit up for the National League at Marlins Park. It will be the 25-year-old ace’s second All-Star appearance, and the eighth time the veteran backstop has been named to the team.

When and Where

Game 1: Friday @ 8:15 p.m. EST (TV: SNY; RADIO: 710 WOR, ESPN Deportes)

Game 2: Saturday @ 4:10 p.m. EST (TV: SNY; RADIO: 710 WOR, ESPN Deportes)

Game 3: Sunday @ 2:15 p.m. EST (TV: SNY; RADIO: 710 WOR, ESPN Deportes)

Baseball Weather

Friday: Clear with a low of 69F and winds between 10-15 mph.
Saturday: Partly cloudy with a high of 91F and winds between 5-10 mph. 20% chance of a stray shower or thunderstorm.
Sunday: Partly cloudy with a high of 94F and winds between 5-10 mph.

Probable Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Jacob deGrom (8-3, 3.55 ERA, 2.66 DRA, .237 TAv, 3.4 WARP) vs. RHP Carlos Martinez (6-7, 3.15 ERA, 2.60 DRA, .227 TAv, 3.7 WARP)

In what figures to be the best matchup of the series, at least on paper, two of the best arms in the game go head-to-head in the opener.

On the visiting side, deGrom will try to win his fifth straight. The bushy-haired ace has been absolutely dominating over the four-game stretch, allowing just three earned runs in 32 innings pitched (0.84 ERA) while striking out 31.

Martinez has lost his last two decisions, most recently on Sunday at home against the Nationals where he was charged with five runs in five innings.

Saturday: TBD vs. RHP Adam Wainwright (9-5, 5.48 ERA, 5.97 DRA, .281 TAv, -0.4 WARP)

A three-time All-Star with two 20-win seasons on his resume, Wainwright will wrap up what is arguably the most inconsistent first half of his career. He earned the win over Miami on Monday in spite of a poor performance, allowing six runs on eight hits in five innings, and will be aiming to win three in a row.

Sunday: TBD vs. RHP Lance Lynn (6-6, 3.87 ERA, 5.15 DRA, .258 TAv, 0.5 WARP)

The 30-year-old Lynn is 1-3 with a 7.89 ERA over his last four outings, surrendering eight homers during that stretch.

Who’s Hot?

Mets IF/OF T.J. Rivera (.429 AVG, 1.264 OPS with 2 home runs in his last 6 games)

Mets SS Jose Reyes (5-for-15, 1 HR in July)

Cardinals OF Tommy Pham (.353 AVG (6-for-17) with 5 RBIs since Monday)

Who’s Not?

Mets RF Jay Bruce (1 for his last 19 with 6 strikeouts)

Cardinals C Yadier Molina (1-for-11 since July 4)

When We Last Met

The Mets took two of three in St. Louis in late August, with rookies Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo earning the victories. Martinez held New York to one run over eight strong frames in the middle game, while deGrom was charged with five runs on twelve hits in one of his worst starts of the season.

It’s Literally a 10-Day DL

Mets: LF Yoenis Cespedes (right hamstring cramp) is expected to be in the lineup on Friday night. Curtis Granderson (sore hip) should also be available for this series. Conforto (bruised left hand) began a rehab assignment with high-A St. Lucie on Thursday, and could be activated from the disabled list as soon as Saturday. The first-time All-Star played all nine innings in centerfield, going 3-for-4 with a double at the plate. LHP Josh Smoker (left shoulder strain) pitched a scoreless frame in that game, his first action since being placed on the 10-day DL on June 14.

Cardinals: LHP Zach Duke (ligament surgery in left elbow) joined Triple-A Memphis in Nashville on Thursday, the veteran’s third club since beginning a rehab assignment last Friday. Duke may be activated by the end of the month if all goes well. CF Dexter Fowler (right heel spur) ran the bases with cleats on Thursday for the first time since being injured and could return this weekend, although at this point the team may take a cautious approach and wait until after the break to activate their speedy leadoff hitter. 2B Kolten Wong (right triceps strain) is on assignment with Double-A Springfield, and has started their past two games.

Notable Quotables

“If you’re gonna pitch it, you’ve got to catch it. Some of the best pitching in baseball has some of the best defense in baseball. Certainly, we have a system that we’ve put together where we try to put guys in the right spots depending on who’s pitching and who’s up and it seems like we’re 6-10 inches away from being in the right place.” – Mets manager Terry Collins on the team’s recent defensive woes

“It happens quickly. You win five out of six and the team you’re chasing goes through a little bit of a tailspin and all of a sudden that math changes quickly, which is why this is something we keep re-evaluating every day… We could certainly be in a better position than we are right now, but we’re not in a position where we’re dead. We’re lucky to be in a division where being four games under .500 isn’t a death knell. We still have a shot. We have to start playing to our potential if we’re going to make this happen.” – Cardinals general manager Michael Girsch, promoted to the position a week ago, on his club’s stance leading up to the trade deadline

Photo credit: Jeff Curry – USA Today Sports

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