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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers @ New York Mets

The Mets are one of baseball’s biggest surprises in the first couple weeks, sprinting out of the gates by winning 10 of 11

MLB: New York Mets at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

A 7-6 start for the Brewers feels perhaps a little disappointing for some. That’s probably to be expected after losing a couple of games in the late innings, but the previous 9-game Cardinals-Cubs-Cardinals stretch was the team’s first true test of the year, and they were able to get through the other side of it above .500 despite injuries starting to pile up.

Things don’t necessarily get easier this weekend in New York, but at least there’s a softer schedule on the other side.

The Mets are, improbably, 10-1 heading into this series. Yes, they’ve had the benefit of facing the Phillies and Marlins so far, going 5-0 in those games. But they’ve also taken 2 of 3 from St. Louis and swept the NL East favorite Nationals in Washington. Injuries derailed last season, but this is still a team that went to the playoffs in 2016 and went to the World Series in 2015. The strength of the team is still the pitching staff, with a starting rotation that’s the envy of everyone not playing in Washington or the north side of Chicago.

But the offense — built around a group of aging players — has been holding up their end of the bargain to start the year. Adrian Gonzalez, now 36 years old, is off to a .296/.406/.444 start. Asdrubal Cabrera, 32, is hitting .333/.388/.600 with 3 home runs and 3 doubles and has scored 10 runs in 11 games. Yoenis Cespedes, 32, has hit 3 home runs and driven in 10 in 11 games (although he’s also struck out 20 times).

Jay Freaking Bruce, somehow still only 31 years old despite killing the Brewers for what feels like the entirety of the 2000s, is hitting a Jay Bruce-y .256/.356/.436. He only has 1 home run on the year, but hasn’t hit his requisite 5 against the Brewers yet. The Mets have another former Red manning third base year, with the 32-year-old Todd Frazier hitting .222/.375/.333 in the first 11 games.

It’s probably fair to be skeptical about how long the older group can stay healthy and/or productive, but the Mets have banked a lot of wins early. Looking at it another way: they may not need to win 80 more games this year to stay in the wildcard race until the end.

Probable Pitchers

Friday - 6:10 p.m. CDT
Zach Davies vs. Steven Matz

Saturday - 6:10 p.m. CDT
Chase Anderson vs. Matt Harvey

Sunday - 12:10 p.m. CDT
Jhoulys Chacin vs. Noah Syndergaard

The Brewers actually catch a bit of a break this weekend, if there is such a thing against the Mets’ rotation. While they don’t avoid Syndergaard, they do at least dodge Jacob deGrom and face a left-hander in Matz.

Matz has struck out 12 batters and allowed a total of 3 runs in his first 2 starts, covering 9 innings, but has also walked 5. Most of the damage done against the hometown guy came in his first start of the year against the Cardinals, though. In his most recent start, he shut out the Natioanls over 5 innings, only allowing 3 hits and striking out 8.

Injuries have robbed any hope of Harvey being the stud he was in 2015, but the hope is he can at least be a solid mid-rotation starter. His first outing of the year saw him shut out the Phillies over 5 innings, only allowing two baserunners -- a hit and a walk -- while striking out 5. Washington hit him hard on Sunday, though, tagging him for 9 hits and 4 runs in 5 innings.

Syndergaard is one of the hardest throwers in the league, but that hasn’t translated into the dominance you’d expect. Sure, he averages 97.3 mph on his fastball, routinely hits triple digits, and throws a 92.8 mph slider (!!), but he’s still very hittable for someone who throws so hard. He’s struck out 22 batters in 16 innings/3 starts this year, but has also allowed 15 hits and 7 earned runs. If the Brewers can get the timing down on the heat, they might be able to do some damage against him.

After this weekend, the Brewers have a 9-game stretch against the Reds, Marlins and Royals. Going 1-2 this weekend would have the Brewers at 8-8 heading into that stretch. Anything better than that would put them in a position to do some real damage to close out their first month of 2018.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs