Opposite dugout: Mets leading the way in NL East, but questions still surround them

mets-logo-sidebar.jpgManager: Terry Collins (5th season)

Record: 63-55

Last 10 games: 5-5

Who to watch: RF Curtis Granderson (.249/.341/.442 with 20 HR, 50 RBIs), 2B Daniel Murphy (.277/.325/.412 with 43 RBIs), 1B Lucas Duda (.247/.347/.476 with 21 HR, 55 RBIs), SS Wilmer Flores (.253 with 11 HR, 44 RBIs), RHP Jacob deGrom (11-6, 2.03 ERA), RHP Jeurys Familia (32 saves, 1.87 ERA)

Season series vs. Orioles: 2-0

Pitching probables:

Aug. 18: RHP Jacob deGrom vs. RHP Kevin Gausman, 7:05 p.m., MASN
Aug. 19: RHP Noah Syndergaard vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, 7:05 p.m., MASN

Inside the Mets:

The Mets are entering uncharted waters. As we near the end of the season, New York currently hold a 4 1/2-game lead over the Nationals in the National League East. They are staring at their first postseason appearance since losing Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series to the Cardinals and their first finish above .500 since 2008. And while that sounds very exciting for the Mets, they still have 44 games left to play.

Terry Collins has done well during his time in New York, as the Mets have steadily improved in each of his five years managing the team. But Collins has never made the postseason in his 10-plus years of managerial experience in the majors, and all the talk about inning limits on pitchers and holding the division lead might raise some eyebrows halfway through August.

Right-handed ace Matt Harvey won't pitch in this two-game series at Camden Yards, but his 11-7 record and 2.57 ERA are important parts of this Mets rotation. Collins has maintained that Harvey is on a 190-195 innings limit coming back from Tommy John surgery this season, which means he only has about 40 innings left. It'll be interesting to see how Collins handles Harvey down the stretch as the Mets look to lock up the East and make a run through October.

But even with potentially shutting down Harvey, the Mets still have plenty of talent to carry them the rest of the way. Their offense has been a nice combination of power and average. Right fielder Curtis Granderson is slashing .249/.341/.442 while hitting 20 home runs with 50 RBIs and first baseman Lucas Duda is adding a .247/.347/.476 slash line with 21 homers and 55 RBIs. Second baseman Daniel Murphy is doing well at the plate with a .277 average and 43 RBIs, while shortstop Wilmer Flores is adding a .253 average with 11 longballs and 44 RBIs. Center fielder Juan Lagares is batting .260 with 33 RBIs.

Right-hander Jacob deGrom, who will start Tuesday, is among the best in the National League. His 2.03 ERA is second only to the Dodgers' Zach Greinke's 1.58 and goes along with an 11-6 record. deGrom's win in his last start was his first since his start out of the All-Star break on July 21, but the Mets have won each of his last six starts, where he has gone 3-0 with a 1.32 ERA since July 8. Last week against the Rockies, deGrom threw seven innings of two-hit, shutout ball while walking four and striking out 10. In his first career start against the Orioles back on May 6, he pitched seven innings, giving up six hits, one run, one walk with nine strikeouts and one hit batter in the 5-1 win. deGrom is keeping the current O's bats to just a .136 average.

Rookie righty Noah Syndergaard will make his first appearance against the Orioles in his young career Wedneday night. After a rocky start to his season in May in which he went 2-4 with a 4.15 ERA over his first six starts, Syndergaard has gone 5-2 with a 2.54 ERA in his 11 starts since. That includes a 3-1 mark with a 3.33 ERA in his last four starts for a 3.07 ERA on the season. Interestingly enough, all of Syndergaard's wins have come within the comforts of Citi Field, where he is 7-1 with a 1.82 ERA in nine starts. Conversely, he is 0-5 with a 5.01 ERA in eight road starts. Also, he is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in two interleague starts against the Blue Jays and the Rays. But his stuff is filthy, including a 97 mph fastball with an 81 mph curveball and 88 mph changeup.

Including this quick two-game series in Baltimore, the Mets only have a combined five games against teams that are currently over .500, with a three-game series against the Yankees coming in September. After getting swept at home by the Pirates this past weekend, the Mets' lead in the NL East was preserved by the Giants, who swept the Nats in four games. But the Mets can't get caught fooling around this late in the season. Even though they have a favorable schedule, are 42-21 at home and 10-5 in August, there is still plenty of room for Washington to work its way past New York. And with the Pirates, Cubs and Giants being the only contenders for the NL wild card spots, the only way into the postseason for an NL East team is with the division crown. That could possibly set up an all-or-nothing three-game series when the Nationals come to Citi Field to close out the regular season.

Caleb Joseph's bat is heating up for the Orioles
Note on Jason Garcia and tonight's game

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