Series Preview #16, @ New York Mets

Dilip Vishwanat

After a rough going in St. Louis, Arizona tries to salvage their road trip in facing the "Boys From Queens", the New York Mets.

What's New?

Pitching was the name of the game through the Diamondbacks' series in St. Louis, but it was the Cardinals enjoying the success. Arizona was held to two runs or less in all three matchups, dropping all three games to put a damper on a once-promising road trip. In a series that was though to be a barometer for the Diamondbacks and their recent improvements, St. Louis simply looked to be on a different level through their elite pitching and timely hitting. St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright was flat-out unhittable on Tuesday night, putting together a one-hit shutout in the Cardinals' 5-0 win. Arizona was then unable to capitalize on Brandon McCarthy's strong start and could not convert on offensive opportunities on Wednesday night, as Chris Owings' throwing error sealed a 3-2 defeat fro the Diamondbacks in the twelfth inning. After jumping out to a two run lead in the first inning Thursday, the Diamondbacks were unable to add on and saw their lead crumble in a 4-2 loss.

After getting swept in St. Louis, in deciding fashion, the Diamondbacks' offense appeared to have returned to an average major league level (16th), posting 187 runs and batting .253 as a team. Arizona is also hitting just .242 on the road, scoring 91 runs in 25 games away outside of Australia and Chase Field this season. Their pitching statistics actually improved, as despite Bronson Arroyo's poor outing the Diamondbacks pitching staff improved a it's team ERA to 4.68, still just 29th in all of baseball. Their starting rotation ERA is also 29th in the majors, posting a 5.20 ERA. The Diamondbacks are now 18-31 on the season, 12 games behind the San Francisco Giants in the NL West. Arizona has lost six of their last then games, and have posted a road record of 12-13 on the season.

The NL East might just be baseball's second-most competitive division in baseball, and it appears that the Mets are hanging on (for now). Despite the offseason acquisition of outfielder Curtis Granderson, the Mets' offense is still below league average with a 20th-best 185 runs and are hitting just .234 on the season. Despite the absence of ace Matt Harvey as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, the Mets' pitching staff is hovering around league average with a 3.93 ERA. As expected, that number is even more impressive at Citi Field, as their ERA drops to 3.61 when playing at home.

The Mets continue their nine-game home stand after dropping two of three games to the Dodgers, with their lone victory coming Thursday. After facing Arizona, New York looks to wrap things up at Citi Field as Pittsburgh comes into town. The Mets are currently 21-25 on the season, and just 10-14 at home. The club sits in fourth place in the NL East, five games behind Atlanta for the division lead. New York has won just four of their last ten games, and has lost three of their last four. The Mets swept the Diamondbacks in their only other matchup this season, a three game stretch in Phoenix in mid-April.

On The Mend

Diamondbacks third baseman Eric Chavez is listed as day to day with "knee issues", and is expected to be unavailable to play third base in the next couple days, according to Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson.

Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud remains on the 7-day concussion disabled list, but was cleared to return to baseball activities Thursday, according to ESPN.com's Adam Rubin. No return date is imminent, as he did not feel symptom-free until Wednesday.

New York right hander Dillon Gee threw off flat ground on Thursday, according to ESPN.com's Adam Rubin. Gee has not pitched since May 10th while dealing with back issues.

Where Do Gibson, Towers Stand After La Russa Hire?

With their futures already in doubt after a franchise-worst April, many pundits feel that the fates of Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson and general manager Kevin Towers were sealed with the hiring of Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa. So where do they stand now?

I may be the last person who has yet to get over the Kirk Gibson post-2011 hangover, as I honestly feel he deserves to be given consideration at least for the rest of the season to make his case to be the long-term manager of the ball club. After his great 2011 campaign, Gibson managed his team to two consecutive 81-win seasons and then opened 2014 with a franchise-worst April. While this may not look to be the strongest resume, one must remember the injury struggles that plagued the Diamondbacks in 2012 and 2013, as well as the fact that he had to deal with major roster turnover each offseason at the whims of Towers. This situation reminds me a lot of the situation the Diamondbacks were in as Bob Melvin's 2007 Diamondbacks surprised everyone to reach the 2007 postseason, followed by mediocrity and then failure. While at a point where the front office felt Melvin and then-general manager Josh Byrnes needed to go, Melvin had proven himself to be a capable major league manager and has since found great success in Oakland, winning two consecutive AL West titles. I feel Gibson, with a 293-287 record through his first 580 games as manager and the 2011 NL Manager of the Year, has more than established himself as a capable major league manager (unlike his predecessor, A.J. Hinch) and deserves the job for at least the regular season. He deserves a lot of credit for adjusting himself to the current roster and getting the best out of his team as they quietly became one of the hottest teams in baseball in early May.

Towers, however, is on a lot shorter leash when it comes to his job security. Already known as controlling and whimsical in his decision-making, it is only a matter of time until he and La Russa clash, which could lead to Towers packing his bags. Certain moves that he has made have been more than questionable, as they over the last two years have turned one of baseball's best farm systems (Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, Adam Eaton, Matt Davidson, Jarrod Parker, Ryan Cook) into Mark Trumbo (hurt), Trevor Cahill (out of the rotation), Didi Gregorius (in Triple-A), Tony Sipp (LONG gone), Addison Reed (solid, not great), Brandon McCarthy (rough 2013, finally starting to come around in 2014), and Randall Delgado (out of the rotation), among others. He signed aging vets (Cody Ross, Bronson Arroyo) to huge multiyear deals, traded one of baseball's best talents in Justin Upton for 50 cents on the dollar, traded for Martin Prado three years too late, and mortgaged the franchise's entree future on grit and grind, a la the Memphis Grizzlies. It's time for him to go, and while I fully expect Towers to be making the decisions in the MLB Draft next month, I'm not sure La Russa and Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall let Towers go through another trade deadline.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1, Friday 7:10 ET: RHP Chase Anderson (2-0, 5.06 ERA, 6.06 FIP) vs. RHP Bartolo Colon (3-5, 5.34 ERA, 4.02 FIP)

Anderson will be making his third career start, winning his first two in completely different fashions. He was stellar in his major league debut, giving up one run in 5.1 innings in his major league debut against the White Sox, then rode a strong offensive performance to his second win after giving up five earned runs in 5.1 innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It has been uneasy tidings for Colon in his post-Biogenesis season, as he has shown flashes of his All-Star self, following it up with struggles. In his three victories this season, Colon has posted a 1.23 ERA, while in his other six starts he has posted a startling 6.59 ERA.

Game 2, Saturday 4:10 ET: RHP Josh Collmenter (2-2, 3.91 ERA, 4.87 FIP) vs. RHP Zack Wheeler (1-4, 4.53 ERA, 3.83 FIP)

Collmenter has been a stabilizing force ever since his return to the starting rotation, and picked up the win in his last start, giving up three runs on four hits in 5.1 innings against the Dodgers. All three of the runs he gave up came off of home runs. Wheeler, who last season was thought to be a worthy second banana to ace Matt Harvey, has struggled in 2014 to say the least. The second-year starter, who after his last outing criticized his own pitch selection and predictability, beat Arizona in his only other win this season.

Game 3, Sunday 1:10 ET: RHP Bronson Arroyo (4-3, 4.45 ERA, 4.23 FIP) vs. RHP Rafael Montero (0-2, 6.97 ERA, 7.23 FIP)

After an impressive run of starts (3-0, 0.91 ERA over previous four starts), Arroyo had his share of struggles against the St. Louis Cardinals his last time out. He gave up five runs on nine hits in seven innings as his team was one-hit in a 5-0 loss on Tuesday night. While taking Dillion Gee's spot in the rotation, Montero has had his share of struggles, including giving up five runs in 4.1 innings his last time out. While Gee remains out with injury, Montero may still need a strong performance to keep his tentative spot in the rotation.

Series Pick'em

The outlook of this series is definitely a lot brighter than it was in St. Louis. While I do like what I've seen from Chase Anderson this season, it might just be a matter of experience for a pitcher in Colon who is due for a solid outing. I would expect a solid outing out of Collmenter, which definitely plays in the Diamondbacks' favor if they can get to Wheeler wary on. I fully expect arroyo to get back on track against a Mets offense that has looked stagnant at times, and would not be surprised if Arizona can come up with a big inning against Montero to effectively knock him out of the rotation. I say that Arizona takes two of three in New York to finish the road trip at 2-4.

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