Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Mets' Big Homestand Features 3 Contenders & A Reunion

Mets Manager Mickey Callaway throwing batting practice Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Jason Schott.

On Tuesday night, the Mets open the most important homestand of their season, a nine-game stretch against the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, and Chicago Cubs that perhaps could decide their postseason fate.

The Mets enter this run with a record of 64-60, including 24-10 in the second half, two games out of a National League Wild Card spot.

Mets Manager Mickey Callaway said of the importance of this stretch on Tuesday afternoon, "We have to just play baseball, right, the way we've been playing it since the All-Star Break. It is big, the fans are going to be tremendous out there like they were in the last series (against the Washington Nationals). It felt like the playoffs, so that'll be fun. Our guys have to go out there and play the game the right way - focus on the small things. We've got to get ahead (in the count) when we're pitching, grind out at-bats when we're hitting, get a timely hit here and there, and play the game the way it's supposed to be played and we'll be where we want to be."

The homestand begins with a three-game interleague series against Cleveland Indians.

Cleveland is 74-51 and lead the American League Wild Card race, and the series, which opens with a matchup between the Mets' Steven Matz (7-7, 4.33 ERA) and Clevleland's Shane Bieber (12-5, 3.27), is a reunion of sorts for the managers.

Callaway was Cleveland's pitching coach from 2013 through 2017, serving under Terry Francona, whose in his eighth year at the helm with the Tribe.

"It's kind of cool," Callaway said of getting to face off against Francona. "I think that, where we're at, I'm more focused on our guys than that; I'm sure he is, too. It will be fun to be across the field from him."

Callaway said of what he learned from Francona about managing late-season games, "You try to keep things as relaxed as possible. It's the same game, the games probably do mean more, there's going to be more pressure on the players, so you just have to keep a calm and relaxed atmosphere, and allow them to perform to the best of their abilities. I think Tito probably does that better than anybody I've ever been around, and I think that that's very important. It's something that he's excelled at, especially this time of year, and that's why his teams have been in the playoffs and gone very deep at times."

On Wednesday night, Marcus Storman will make his fourth start for the Mets ( second at Citi Field), and he will be matched up with Cleveland's Adam Plutko (5-3, 4.67).

Noah Syndergaard (8-6, 3.86) will be matched up with Aaron Civale (1-2, 1.50), who will be making his fifth Major League start and is coming off a solid performance against the Yankees, in which he allowed just two earned runs in six innings.

The Atlanta Braves are here over the weekend for a three-game set starting Friday night. They are 74-52 and lead the National League East by 5 games over the Washington Nationals and 9 games over the Mets, so this will be a chance for them to gain some ground at a late push for the division crown.

The Chicago Cubs then come in for a three game set from Tuesday, August 27 to Thursday the 29th. The Cubs have had an up-and-down year, and are 66-58, a half-game out in the National Central race and they hold the second Wild Card spot.

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