Mets vs. Astros: 5 things to watch and predictions for 3-game series at Citi Field

Here are five things to watch and predictions as the Mets and Houston Astros play a three-game series at Citi Field starting on Friday night…


Preview

Franciscos. That’s fun to say

As the Mets’ offense has turned into one of the most potent in baseball over the last month and change, pretty much everyone has gotten in on the fun. But Francisco Lindor and Francisco Alvarez have been on another planet.

Lindor is slashing .291/.354/.547 with four homers and 10 doubles in 96 plate appearances over 21 games in June. With that hot streak, Lindor’s OPS+ for the season is up to 118.

He is on pace to finish the year with 27 homers, 48 doubles, and 106 runs scored.

As far as Alvarez, he is starting to look like a budding superstar. He’s also swagger personified.

During his eight-game hitting streak, Alvarez is hitting .556/.647/1.037 with three homers and four doubles over 34 plate appearances. One of those homers came in Game 2 of the Subway Series, when he took a 98 mph Luis Gil fastball the other way for a missile of a two-run shot.

Overall, Alvarez is hitting .313/.383/.521 in 30 games this season.

Mets’ bullpen is being held together by tape and glue

Over the last week, the Mets have lost three of their most important relievers.

Edwin Diaz has eight games left to serve on his sticky stuff suspension, and is eligible to return on July 6.

Sean Reid-Foley is making progress as he recovers from a shoulder impingement, and could be activated from the IL on July 5 when first eligible.

Drew Smith is dealing with forearm tightness, and his potential return date is much less clear.

As the Mets wait for Diaz and Reid-Foley, they’re going to have to keep navigating the late innings with a bullpen that features Reed Garrett and Dedniel Nunez as the two most reliable arms.

That ‘pen bent but didn’t break during Game 1 of the Subway Series, and was better in Game 2, with Adrian Houser tossing the final three frames.

McNeil and Megill

While the Mets have turned their season around, serious questions remain when it comes to Jeff McNeil and Tylor Megill.

McNeil has very slowly started to show signs — he hit the ball hard in three at-bats against the Cubs on June 23, had two hits against the Yankees on Tuesday, and had an RBI against the Yanks on Wednesday.

May 26, 2024; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil (1) hits a double in the fifth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field. May 26, 2024; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil (1) hits a double in the fifth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field.

But with Jose Iglesias eating into McNeil’s playing time at second base and Luisangel Acuña on fire in Triple-A Syracuse, McNeil could be running out of time to right the ship.

As far as Megill, he has struggled to provide much length during his starts, and he was hit very hard in his most recent outing — allowing six runs in just 3.0 innings.

The Mets could soon add Christian Scott back to the rotation, and Kodai Senga is nearing a rehab assignment. So there could be a rotation shakeup in the near future.

The outfield situation

With Starling Marte out for at least four weeks and perhaps longer, the Mets are patching things together in the outfield.

Tyrone Taylor has gotten the bulk of the playing time so far, and is excelling.

Meanwhile, the Mets also have DJ Stewart as an outfield option.

Another alignment, especially if McNeil starts to hit, could be shifting McNeil to a corner outfield spot and having Iglesias play second base.

Houston, we don’t have a problem (anymore)

Like the Mets, the Astros had a very rough start to the season.

And like the Mets, Houston has caught fire recently and gotten back to .500.

The Astros have won seven games in a row, are 8-2 over their last 10 games, and have clawed to within 4.5 games of the Mariners in the AL West and to within 3.0 games of the third Wild Card spot.

Houston has some serious issues in the rotation, and have already lost Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy for the season due to Tommy John surgery. They’re also still without Lance McCullers Jr., while Justin Verlander is progressing slowly as he attempts to return from a neck injury.

The Astros’ offense is still a strength, though, led by perennial MVP candidate Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman.

Predictions

Who will be the MVP of the series?

Pete Alonso.

Alonso has been in a bit of an offensive rut lately, but he’s continued to get on base — reaching safely in each of his last five games.

He had a hit, walk, and three runs scored in Game 2 of the Subway series on Wednesday, and it seems like he’s overdue for another power eruption.

Will Megill’s struggles continue?

Unfortunately for the Mets, yes,

The Astros’ lineup — full of power and experience — is not the ideal one to try to rebound against following a poor start.

Which Astros will be thorns in the Mets’ side?

Framber Valdez and Jeremy Pena.

The Mets have gotten the best of top tier starting pitching lately, including a shellacking of Gerrit Cole and success against Gil. But Valdez, who has allowed two runs or fewer in four of his last five starts and spun 7.0 innings of one-run ball against the Orioles last Sunday, will be strong when he starts against the Mets on Saturday.

As far as Pena, he’s struggled a bit this season, with a .698 OPS and without a homer since May 17. But he’s going to get some key hits against the Mets this weekend.