Monday, April 21, 2014

Mets face another tough foe as Cards come to NY

The Mets will swap out one postseason contender for another Monday.

New York played host to the Braves over the weekend and will match up against the defending National League champion Cardinals over the next four days. St. Louis, trailing Milwaukee in the NL Central, comes to New York with a 7-5 mark in its past 12 games.

St. Louis has qualified for the playoffs in three straight seasons, but the Mets are 9-11 against the Cards over that span. Monday's matchup will feature two promising young pitchers, as Jenrry Mejia pitches for the Mets and the Cards' Tyler Lyons comes up to make his first big league start of the year.

Lyons, 26, went 2-4 with a 4.75 ERA in 12 appearances for the Cardinals last season, and he's entering the rotation as a replacement for injured starter Joe Kelly. Lyons, a former ninth-round draftee, went 2-0 with a 3.32 ERA in his first three starts for Triple-A Memphis this season.

"He was very good last time out," said St. Louis manager Mike Matheny of Lyons, the only lefty in the rotation. "We just hope he can carry that momentum forward here [Monday]."

To make room for Lyons, the Cards optioned pitcher Jorge Rondon back to Memphis. That gives them a seven-man bullpen, and Lyons will be able to pitch with the knowledge that he belongs in the Majors.

"He did a great job for us when he got the opportunity," said Matheny of Lyons, who has a career 3.96 ERA in the Minors. "And we go with that hot hand. He had a good start last time."

The Mets, meanwhile, are hoping that Mejia can shake off an injury to continue his impressive start. Mejia, 24, has two solid outings in his three starts, but he left his last outing early with a blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand. The Mets believe he's all right, though, and Mejia will be monitored closely as he takes on the heart of the Cardinals' batting order.

The Cardinals, playing through a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, will arrive in New York fresh off a hard-fought four-game series against the Nationals which the teams split. After they play against the Mets, the Cards will return home for two tough series against Central foes Pittsburgh and Milwaukee.

Cardinals: Traveling by train
For the first time since 2009, the Cardinals traveled to their next stop on this road trip by Amtrak. Following the Cardinals' series finale in Washington on Sunday, the team boarded a train headed for New York City's Penn Station. It was the only train trip for the club this year.

The last time the Cardinals used the railways to travel was in making their way from Washington to Philadelphia on July 23, 2009. The next day, the Cardinals acquired outfielder Matt Holliday from the A's in a trade that sent Clayton Mortensen, Shane Peterson and Brett Wallace to Oakland.

Mets: Granderson moves up in order
The Mets placed Curtis Granderson to the No. 2 slot Sunday, but the veteran continued his slow offensive season. Granderson went 0-for-6 against Atlanta in Sunday's game, though he delivered a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 14th inning of a 4-3 victory. He's batting .127, but he's confident that the results are nothing more than an early-season aberration.

"Obviously, you want things to be better," he said Saturday night. "But you realize that there's a lot of baseball to be played and a lot of at-bats to be had. ... Continue to swing the bat, continue to do the work that you need to do. Stay focused, stay ready, stay aggressive. Eventually, things will turn."

Worth noting
  • Matheny has been aggressive in finding days off for his regulars during this stretch of 20 games in 20 days, and Sunday was Holliday's day to sit. The Cardinals' left fielder is expected back in the lineup for Monday's series opener, which will push Allen Craig back to right field.
  • Because of an overlap with the St. Louis Blues' NHL playoff game, the Cardinals' telecast Monday will be moved to FOX Sports Midwest Plus in the St. Louis area. 
  • The Mets scored again in the first inning Sunday, and they have more first-inning runs (14) than all but one other NL team. The Giants have scored 15 times in the first.

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