It’s early, but the National League East is shaping up to be a wild division. The revamped Phillies got off to a hot start with a 3-game sweep of the defending division champion Atlanta Braves over the weekend, while the New York Mets went into the nation’s capital and came away with 2 of 3 games over the Nationals.
The Marlins, meanwhile, split a 4-game home series with the Colorado Rockies. It was generally a good result for a Marlins club without major aspirations of winning this season. The Marlins are squarely in the middle of a rebuilding phase, but they’re primed to play spoiler for some of their divisional bunkmates as the season progresses.
The Mets will have their home opener against the Nationals on Thursday, but before that, they’ll head down to Miami to take on the Marlins in a 3-game midweek series. That gets underway tonight with a pair of left-handers going toe-to-toe. Steven Matz will climb the hill for the Marlins, while Caleb Smith will take the mound for the home team.
|2019 ATR Home||0-0-0||2-2-0|
|2019 ATR Away||3-0-0||0-0-0|
|2019 O/U Home||0-0-0||2-1-1|
|2019 O/U Away||2-1-0||0-0-0|
The Mets were a trendy pick among experts to exceed expectations this season. Despite playing in a stacked division, the Mets unquestionably have the talent to compete for a spot in the postseason. With Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard atop the rotation, New York certainly has the starting pitching. Adding Edwin Diaz via offseason trade also helped stabilize what was a shaky bullpen a season ago.
DeGrom and Syndergaard will do what they do, but whether the Mets contend this season likely hinges on how some of their other starters perform. Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz have shown flashes, but neither has been all that consistent at the big league level.
Matz went 5-11 across his 30 starts a season ago. The left-hander posted a passable 3.97 ERA along with a SIERA of 4.10, both of which are pretty decent numbers. Matz struck out 23.2 percent of all hitters he faced, though his 8.9 percent walk rate was a bit higher than the Mets would like. The good thing for Matz is that he’ll be facing a vulnerable Miami lineup that posted a 22.9 percent K-rate against left-handed pitching last season.
Betting on the Mets tends to be a fairly risky endeavor, especially with a pitcher like Matz who has a track record of getting blown up at times.
Rookie Pete Alonso was a big part of the Mets’ series win over the Nationals, as he racked up 6 hits in his 12 at-bats, including 3 doubles. Alonso also drove in 3 runs, proving that the Mets were smart to keep him on the big league roster out of spring training. Jeff McNeil and Wilson Ramos, who both went 4-for-9 in the series, also gave New York a boost at the plate.
While a 2-2 series against what was a playoff team was a strong result for Miami, it’s also not enough to make people think this team will actually make much noise this season. Playing in a stacked division will eventually catch up with them, as will the general dearth of talent on the roster.
While the offense will wind up leaving plenty to be desired, this is actually a pretty decent starting rotation. Jose Urena struggled on Opening Day, but Trevor Richards, Pablo Lopez and Sandy Alcantara each pitched pretty well in their starts. Caleb Smith isn’t a name that will generate much buzz from casual fans, but the Marlins’ No. 5 starter is actually pretty good in his own right.
Smith made 16 starts last season for Miami before going down with a season-ending injury in late-June. The 27-year-old southpaw finished 5-6 in those 16 starts with a 4.19 ERA. His 4.08 SIERA was slightly better than his ERA, and he quietly put up a very strong 27 percent strikeout rate in his 77.1 innings of work.
Smith’s 10.1 percent walk rate will need to come down if he’s going to take the next step this season, but it was a promising first campaign in a Marlins uniform, to be sure. I don’t think the Marlins’ quality starting rotation will be enough to vault them over some of the other contenders out of their own division, but Miami could surprise some people this season.
This will be the first of 19 games between the Mets and Marlins this season, so they’ll definitely get to know one another. New York went 12-7 in their head-to-head series last season, and Matz posted a stellar 1.53 ERA across his 2 appearances against Miami. Smith had a 3.09 mark with a 1-0 record in his 2 starts vs. New York.
Picking the Marlins likely won’t be a very profitable bet over the course of the entire 162-game season, but we can definitely pick our spots with them. This looks like a decent price on the Fish at least covering the 1 ½ runline. You can get Miami at -135 on the runline here, which makes for a decent bet.
While I’m intrigued by what the Mets might be able to accomplish this season, I think Smith is being undervalued here by oddsmakers. Picking the Marlins to win the game outright at +120 is a more profitable bet than the runline, but it obviously comes with a bit more risk.
Still, it’s a bet I’d be willing to take. Games featuring 2 solid pitchers like this tend to be close to 50-50 propositions, so betting the underdog in that scenario makes plenty of sense. It also won’t hurt that most of the Mets’ best hitters are lefties (Michael Conforto, Robinson Cano, Brandon Nimmo, etc.), so Smith will hold the platoon edge against them.
It’s just a good spot in general for the Marlins, so give me Miami to cover the runline and win outright on the moneyline on Monday night.
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