The House That Kazmir Built
The Mets play their first regular season game in Tampa in over 10 years tonight as they invade Tropicana Field to begin a three-game set with the Rays. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. and the game can be seen on SNY or heard, as always on WFAN 660 AM. Join the conversation on Twitter by following @dailystache or yours truly, @DevOnSports.
The last time the Mets played a regular season in Tampa, the Rays had a Devil in their name. A lot has changed since then, with Tampa — then thought of as a fledgling also ran — rising to the top of the American League in recent years. The Rays are a prohibitive favorite in the AL again this year, but will have to fight through a loaded AL East in order to get another shot at October.
Tampa enters Tuesday’s game red-hot, coming off a sweep of the Miami Marlins over the weekend. Conversely the Mets are ice cold, winners of just one of their last seven and reeling after a sweep in Yankee Stadium that saw them blow two leads in the late innings.
Chris Young will head to the mound for his second start of the season looking to reverse the recent trend, but he’ll need to keep his pitch count down if the Mets hope to avoid multiple calls to their much-maligned bullpen. Young will be opposed by Rays righthander Alex Cobb, making his fifth start of the season. With the young righty on the mound, Terry Collins sends a lefty-laden lineup out tonight, David Wright serving as the only righthanded hitter in the New York nine.
Nieuwenhuis - Valdespin - Wright - Duda - Murphy - Davis - Bay - Thole - Quintanilla
Small Sample Stache: David Wright has just 13 hits in his last 58 at-bats over 16 games, as his average has dropped from .405 to .354.
Jennings - Pena - Upton - Joyce - Zobrist - Matsui - Molina - Johnson - Rodriguez
Small Sample Stache: Hideki Matsui is a career .303/.394/.566 hitter against the Mets with nine homers in 34 games.
Pitching Matchup:NYM: Chris Young (0-0, 3.60 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 2 K) – Young makes his second start of the season coming off a pretty solid opener last Tuesday in D.C. He picked up a no-decision in the game, which ended in the 12th inning, by allowing just three runs (two earned) on six hits. He walked just one and struck out a pair in the 75–pitch effort. The hope going into tonight’s game would be that perhaps Young can creep closer to 90 pitches in the outing.
He’ll never overpower anyone, but Young’s blend off-speed pitches leaves many batters looking foolish on his mid-80’s fastball. Of players in the Rays lineup that have faced Young — Hideki Matsui, Carlos Pena and Jose Molina — only Matsui has any success (3-for-5, including two doubles).
TB: Alex Cobb (2-2, 4.13 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 16 K) – On a staff that features James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore, Cobb is the last in line, but he’s been pretty strong for the Rays in spot duty over the last two seasons. His control is good — eight walks in 24 innings this season — however, the righty has been hit hard in his last two outings, allowing eight runs on 14 hits in 12 innings. He was bitten by the longball at Yankees Stadium on Wednesday (who isn’t?) giving up two homers as Tampa lost 4-1.
Stache Keys to the Game:
- Get to Cobb – Offense is the name of the game for the Mets during tonight’s game because it will be in short supply against Rays starters on Wednesday and Thursday. They must take advantage of opportunities against Cobb to come out with a win tonight.
- Extend Young – Having Chris Young back in the rotation can really solidify the ranks top to bottom for the Mets, but only if Young can become more durable than he has been in the past. You can only live with five-inning starts for so long before it becomes an issue.
- Flash the Leather – As big a problem as the bullpen has been, it’s been magnified by shoddy late inning defense. It can be argued that the Mets could’ve come out of last week with two or three more wins if the defense was merely adequate. Hopefully the off day got their minds right.
This Date in Mets History:
From Tug to Tom to Aggie, June 12 has been a day for hellos and goodbyes from Mets pitchers.
On this date in 1964, the Mets signed 19-year-old Frank “Tug” McGraw, who would later go on to be a dynamic reliever and catalyst for the 1973 National League Champions. Four years after that NL title, June 12, 1977 marked the last start in the first Mets tenure for all-time great Tom Seaver, who tossed a complete game in a 3-1 win over Houston at the Astrodome. Then, on June 12, 1985, another Mets starter took the hill for the first time as Rick Aguilera made his major league debut with two hitless innings in a win over the Phillies.