Back in 2012 Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson preached patience to Mets fans frustrated by years of losing. Alderson pointed to the crop of young starting pitching that he had developing on the farm as the signal that better days were not too far off. Slowly, Alderson’s predictions came true.
First there was Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler in 2013. Then there was Jacob deGrom last season, and this year it was Noah Sydergaard and Steven Matz. A staff that has drawn comparisons to the Braves rotation of the 1990’s, it is fair to say that this influx of young pitching is the reason the Mets are still playing baseball today, when they open up a National League Divisional Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It will be up to them to figure out a way to beat the dynamic duo of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke at least twice in order to have a chance to advance to the League Championship.
The Mets rotation for the NLDS will look like this: deGrom in Game 1; Syndergaard in Game 2; Harvey in Game 3 and, if healthy, Matz in Game 4. It is hard to argue with this rotation, especially in Games One through Three.
DeGrom is without a doubt the Mets most consistent starter, and is not afraid to pitch against some of the best starters in this game. In fact, he already beat the Dodgers and Grenke back July 26 at Citi Field, with the Mets coming away with a 3-2 win. In games that he has lost, only twice this season he gave up more than four runs. As a team, the Mets have won 20 games in which deGrom has started, which accounts for almost a quarter of their wins this season.
Syndergaard is a solid choice for the number two spot in the rotation. He has shown great maturity for a 23-year-old rookie, and even went pitch-for-pitch with Kershaw back on July 3, a game the Mets won 2-1 in Los Angeles. That being said, the one concern Met fans should have is the fact that Syndergaard is 2-5 with a 4.23 ERA in road games this season.
A lot of people will make a big deal that Harvey should be the number two starter, but I like him in the Game 3, he is a no brainer for the series swing game.
The game will be at Citi Field, where Harvey is 8-3 with a 2.23 ERA in 17 starts. In addition, Harvey is a guy who lives and breaths on big moments. Whether the Mets are up 2-0, tied 1-1 or down 0-2, Game 3 will be huge. Harvey wanted the ball in the Mets division clincher at Cincinnati and he will most certainly want the ball in this game. With all of the controversy that surrounds Harvey, Game 3 will be his chance to prove that he is indeed the franchises’ true ace.
This takes me to Game 4 and Steven Matz. Matz threw an 80-pitch bullpen session in Florida and felt no discomfort in his back. If he is healthy, he might get the call in Game 4. The Mets would be wise to leave Matz either off the roster, or in the bullpen and give the ball to Jon Niese.
While Matz pitched well against the Dodgers in his only start against them, he has spent more time on the DL. Game 4 could have the season on the line, and that might be a lot for a pitcher who is undefeated and doesn’t have enough innings to qualify as a rookie.
Niese is a crafty veteran pitcher. As a left-hander, he has matched up well against the Dodgers; Los Angeles is hitting only .211 off of Niese as a team. The big lefty bat of Adrian Gonzalez is 0-for-9 lifetime against Niese. Plus coming out of the bullpen is new for the veteran. The Mets could then insert Bartolo Colon into the bullpen, while Matz sits out. Colon has pitched in relief before in the playoffs. He is a bulldog and would be a great piece to use in emergency situations.
Either way, the Mets can’t go wrong with this rotation; now they have to find a way to outlast two of the best pitchers in baseball.