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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers @ New York Mets

The Brewers’ first challenge in about a month could be a playoff preview

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

After a month of playing some bad baseball teams and taking advantage of the schedule, the Brewers are back to facing legitimate opponents.

If the season ended today, the Brewers would be facing the New York Mets in the first round of the playoffs — so this week’s post-holiday series could be a preview of things to come.

After a couple of frustrating years in Queens, it looks like the Mets are finally starting to look like the true contender projection systems have expected for some time. They come into this series in first place in the NL East, with a 3.5-game lead over second-place Atlanta. Like the Brewers, they’ve largely done it with an excellent pitching staff while they wait for the bats to heat up. New York is 4th in baseball in team ERA and WHIP while they rank 29th in runs scored and slugging percentage.

This could be a tight, low-scoring series if the season-long trends continue to hold.

The Lineup

The Mets won the offseason headlines by trading for and extending superstar Francisco Lindor, although the bogus “can’t cut it in New York” storyline is already starting as he’s gotten off to a slow .220/.315/.359 start in the first half of the season. He’s still an outstanding defender, though, leading to him still being one of the team leaders in WAR to this point in the season.

Former Rookie of the Year and current baseball conspiracy theorist Pete Alonso isn’t the huge power threat he seemed to be a couple years ago with the super bouncy ball of the 2019 season, but he still leads the team in home runs at this point with 15 while hitting .255/.339/.474.

A sign of the Mets’ overall hitting struggles is the fact that first baseman Dominic Smith is the team’s leading hitter at .257, although he has developed into one of the Mets’ best run producers after a stop-and-start early big league career. He’s hitting .257/.325/.405 with 9 home runs and 35 driven in while ranking second on the team in total bases.

Old friend Jonathan Villar is hitting .242/.329/.403 and has found a bit of power, hitting 6 home runs and 10 doubles to this point while also stealing 8 bases.

This is also a lineup that has, in true Mets fashion, been wrecked by injuries. The injury problems in the outfield led to New York nabbing Billy McKinney when the Brewers let him go. After a hot start in Flushing, McKinney has cooled off like he did with the Brewers, and is hitting .221/.309/.488 overall with the Mets, including 29 strikeouts in his 86 at-bats.

The Probable Pitchers

Monday, 6:10 p.m. CDT - Brandon Woodruff vs. Tylor Megill

Megill is a 26-year-old rookie who was recently called up after being an 8th-round pick of the Mets in 2018. The 6’7” righty has thrown a 95 mph fastball almost 60% of the time this year, mixing in a slider and changeup. This will be his third Major League start of the year, and neither of his first two outings have gone beyond 5 innings. He limited the Braves to 2 runs on 3 hits in 4.1 innings in his first career start and followed that up with a 5 inning, 3 run performance with 8 strikeouts against Atlanta in a home start in his second outing.

Tuesday, 6:10 p.m. CDT- Brett Anderson vs. Jacob deGrom

The Brewers’ 6-man rotation robs us of a chance to see Burnes vs. deGrom in a battle to see who gets the worst run support as a black hole forms over Citi Field. Instead, Brett Anderson will take the mound against deGrom, who should honestly win the Cy Young every year unless there’s a damn compelling case for someone else. He’s on track for another this year, with a 0.95 ERA and a K% of 45.3%.

Wednesday, 6:10 p.m. CDT - Corbin Burnes vs. TBD

Burnes will get the start in the series finale against a Mets pitcher yet to be determined. Considering the pitching matchups in the first two games, this could very well be the rubber match of the first meeting between these teams.