Mets, Justin Verlander to begin second half with critical series against the Dodgers

14 July 2023

Coming into the 2023 season, Mets fans likely circled the Dodgers series to open the second half as a potential NLCS preview between two of baseball’s most talented teams.

While Los Angeles sits in a familiar position atop the NL West, the disappointing Mets enter this weekend’s three-game set at Citi Field desperate for wins to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The Mets (42-48) begin the second half 18.5 games behind the NL East-leading Braves and seven games out of the third and final NL Wild Card spot. Baseball’s most-expensive roster needs to pass five teams to find itself back in the playoff picture.

That mission resumes Friday night, with Mets co-ace Justin Verlander scheduled to pitch against the Dodgers’ Julio Urias.

The 40-year-old Verlander — who is in the first season of a two-year, $86.7 million contract — ended his uneven first half on a high note, allowing two runs over 18 innings across his last three starts.

He’ll look to continue his hot streak against a loaded Dodgers lineup boasting the second-most home runs among MLB teams, the third-best OPS and the fourth-most runs scored. Lineup regulars Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Will Smith and J.D. Martinez made the All-Star team for the Dodgers.

Fortunately for the Mets, the typically tough Urias is in the midst of a difficult season. His career-worst 4.76 ERA is more than two times higher than last year’s MLB-best 2.16.

The lefty, a former 20-game winner who finished third in Cy Young voting last season, is coming off one of his better starts of the year — eight strikeouts and two runs allowed against the Pirates — after back-to-back bad outings in which he only lasted three innings apiece.

Right-handed batters are hitting .259 with 10 home runs against Urias this season, meaning Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor should have opportunities to do damage. A win would help set the tone against a Dodgers team the Mets took two out of three from in Los Angeles in April.

Kodai Senga is expected to start Saturday for the Mets after being named an All-Star but not pitching in Tuesday’s game. Max Scherzer is scheduled to go Sunday, while the Dodgers haven’t announced the rest of this weekend’s starters.

Scherzer, whose 4.31 ERA is the second-worst of his career, ended the first half with a loss by allowing five runs to the Padres. The Mets finished the first half on a two-game losing streak after winning six straight to begin July.

New York has struggled on both sides of the diamond, ranking among the bottom half of MLB teams in runs scored and team ERA.

“You’ve got to have different things click,” manager Buck Showalter said after Sunday’s loss. “And like I said before today, when something’s not working well, something else picks it up. … There’s no perfect team or perfect player. That’s why it’s the epitome of a team game.”

The Mets hope to get more out of Alonso, who slugged a then-MLB-leading 22 home runs before he was struck on the left wrist by a Charlie Morton pitch last month. The All-Star first baseman has only hit four home runs in 20 games since returning from the injured list and is batting .143 in July. His .211 batting average this season is a career low.

With fewer than three weeks remaining before the Aug. 1 trade deadline, the next few series should help the Mets decide whether to buy or sell. Playing the Dodgers — who, at 51-38, lead the NL West by percentage points over the Diamondbacks — provides a nice litmus test.


Fans across the pond will get a chance next season to meet the Mets, who are set to play the Phillies from June 8-9 in London.

The MLB London Series debuted in 2019 with the Yankees playing the Red Sox and, following a COVID-related postponement, returned this season for Cubs vs. Cardinals.

The Mets’ selection for the international trip is a highlight of the team’s 2024 schedule, which was released Thursday. They open the season at home against the Brewers on March 28 and will also host the Dodgers on Memorial Day (May 27) and the Red Sox on Labor Day (Sept. 2).

The 2024 Subway Series games against the Yankees are scheduled for June 25-26 at Citi Field and July 23-24 at Yankee Stadium.


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