Friday, May 23, 2014

D-backs look to get payback vs. Mets

It's been only a little over a month since the D-backs and Mets played each other, but when the teams take to the field in Flushing on Friday night for the opener of a three-game weekend series, they will be two squads that have gone a long way -- in opposite directions -- in that short time.

Mets fans might remember the mid-April series as a high point on the young season. The visitors' starters -- Zack Wheeler, Jenrry Mejia and Dillon Gee -- limited host Arizona to two runs in 18 1/3 innings while the likes of Carlos Torres and Kyle Farnsworth finished games. The Mets took what is their only three-game series sweep of the season.

Now, Gee is hurt, Mejia is the closer, Farnsworth is in Houston and the Mets are four games below .500 and losers of six of their last eight contests. They did, however, salvage a series against the Dodgers with a 5-3 win on Thursday. The D-backs, 9-22 at the end of April, are 9-9 and had won four of their five series this month before getting swept by the Cardinals this week. Arizona has benefited from its starting rotation stabilizing, and earlier this week it hired Tony La Russa as chief baseball operator.

If you think Terry Collins might manage with a little more urgency as a result of his team's struggles, think again. That's not his style.

"The players are going to feed off of it. If you start to panic, they start to panic," Collins said. "[Thursday] there might be people who think putting Eric Campbell in left field is a panic move. It's not. This guy's swinging the bat really, really good and he's going to face a pitcher that's really, really good. I'm just riding that hot horse at the moment.

"We're trying to do some stuff, but as I told some of the guys, this is when you find out if you can play here. Grind this out, get through it, and when we start swinging the bats and we got hot, we'll be back on the horse. We're not playing good and we're five games out. That can be made up real fast, especially in our division."

Right-hander Bartolo Colon (5.34 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) is next up to help the Mets get back on the horse. He has been inconsistent this season, his ERA jumping from 4.50 in April to 6.39 in May, but Colon has good numbers in three starts at Citi Field -- a 3.15 ERA while fanning 18 and walking just one.

Colon will try to build on his eight innings of two-run ball against the Nationals on Saturday.

He'll match up against the D-backs' Chase Anderson, a right-hander who was 9 years old during Colon's rookie season. Anderson, like the Mets, fell victim to the Dodgers recently -- yielding five runs in 5 1/3 innings -- and he has been touched up for six runs on nine hits and three walks in 10 2/3 Major League innings. Anderson made the jump straight from Double-A Mobile earlier this month.

Despite recent improvements, the D-backs' rotation still allows more runs per game (5.23) than any other team in the Majors.

Mets: Niese smacks Mets pitchers' first extra-base hit
When Jon Niese sent a Zack Greinke fastball to the right-center field gap Thursday night to momentarily give his team the lead, it was the first time in 73 at-bats the Mets received an extra-base hit from a pitcher.

The phrase "automatic out" is not much of an exaggeration when it comes to the Mets' No. 9 spot.

Niese's double was also just the third hit overall from Mets hurlers, the other two singles off the bat of rookie Jacob deGrom.

D-backs: Ross and the bat toss
D-backs outfielder Cody Ross is notorious for not being able to hold onto his bat. When the team was in Chicago recently to play the White Sox, Ross swung and missed at a pitch and the bat landed past third base in foul territory.

"I don't know if my grip is too loose," Ross said. "It's kind of a weird deal. I'll tend to throw it in the stands or at the pitcher or at the ball. I've done all those this year."

It actually paid off for Ross on Wednesday as he threw his bat at the ball and wound up with a single to center.

"I barreled it," Ross said with a laugh.

Worth noting
  • Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores has hit in five of his last six games, batting .364 (8-for-22) with a .440 on-base percentage in that stretch.
  • Colon has allowed more home runs (nine) than walks (six) this season. 
  • D-backs outfielder A.J. Pollock, the reigning NL co-Player of the Week, is hitting .377 since May 4.

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