July 21 Preview — New York Mets (45-53) at San Francisco Giants (49-50)

(Pete Alonso photo courtesy David Berding/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.

Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.

When and Where: Sunday, July 21, Oracle Park, San Francisco, Calif., 4:05 p.m. EDT.

Denied in their bid to get over .500 for the first time all season, the San Francisco Giants look to regroup and win for the 15th time in 18 games Sunday when they complete a four-game series with the New York Mets.

Matz looks to build on encouraging start for Mets

After breaking through for an 11-4 victory Saturday, the Mets are hoping Steven Matz (5-6, 4.87 ERA) can deliver another positive outing.

The left-hander, who was sent to the bullpen before the All-Star break due to ineffectiveness, allowed two runs and five hits in four innings of New York’s 3-2 win at Minnesota on Tuesday. Matz threw 38 of his 68 pitches for strikes, but what may have been more important to the southpaw was a scoreless opening frame.

Matz has a ghastly 10.59 ERA in the first inning with 20 runs allowed in his 17 starts, and Tuesday’s effort marked the first time in four starts he emerged unscathed.

“I definitely wasn’t as sharp as I’d like to be, but I felt great out there,” he told the team’s official website. “I felt comfortable. I was attacking guys, so it was good.”

Matz’s spot in the rotation did not come up in San Francisco’s visit to New York earlier this season, but he does have a positive track record against the Giants with a 1-0 record and 1.50 ERA in three starts. The southpaw did not get a decision at Oracle Park last season, conceding only a solo homer to Evan Longoria and two other hits in seven innings of New York’s 2-1, 11-inning win.

Pete Alonso‘s fabulous rookie season continued Saturday with a three-run pinch-hit homer. The blast gave him a franchise rookie-record 75 RBIs, bettering the mark of 74 set by Darryl Strawberry in 1983.

Alonso — the Home Run Derby winner — already has the team rookie record for home runs and is eight shy of the overall club mark of 41 set by Todd Hundley in 1996 and matched by Carlos Beltran in 2006.

Menez to get spot start as Bochy shuffles rotation

Drew Pomeranz was originally slated to get the ball for this series finale, but Bruce Bochy opted to move the left-hander to the bullpen to help a taxed relief corps that has logged 29 innings over seven games this week due to a doubleheader Monday and 16-inning marathon to open this series Thursday night.

“You have to do what you think is right for the club at this time,” Bochy told The Mercury News before Saturday’s game. “I can’t tell you what’s going to happen from this point on, but (Pomeranz) is still part of a staff that can help us starting or relieving. But for right now, we need some help in the bullpen and we think he can provide us that and give us some more innings there.”

The Giants plan on purchasing the contract of Conner Menez, who will make his major league debut. The 24-year-old lefty has a combined 5-3 record and 3.13 ERA over 95 innings at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, striking out 123.

In six starts and seven appearances for Triple-A Sacramento, Menez went 2-0 with a 3.82 ERA and 53 strikeouts over 35 1-3 innings. He last pitched July 13, allowing one run in 5 2-3 innings of a 3-2 victory over Fresno.

“It’a a well earned call-up for Conner. He’s been doing a really nice job this year, starting in Double-A, going back to spring training,” Bochy said. “He’s got four pitches, commanding the ball well. He’s really been on a fast pace with his progress.”

San Francisco had a season-best seven-game winning streak snapped with Saturday’s loss and has not lost back-to-back games since June 26-27. Pablo Sandoval went 4 for 4, perhaps ending a slump in which he went 3 for 37 (.081) in his last nine games.

Notable Trends:

The Giants are:

  • 11-3 in their last 14 games vs. starters with a plus-1.30 WHIP.
  • 4-0 in their last four games following a loss.
  • 6-1 in their last seven games vs. sub-.500 teams.

The Mets are:

  • 1-7 in Matz’s last eight road starts vs. sub-.500 teams.
  • 1-8 in their last nine when their opponents allow five or more runs in the previous game.
  • 4-10 in their last 14 road games vs. left-handed starters.

*****5-Star Pick!!!!!

Giants OVER 4.5 runs (-110)

Strong track record versus the Giants aside, there is enough doubt to believe Matz’s last start is an outlier versus starting a trend. It was the first time in his last five starts New York did not allow at least five runs, and the expectation is for the Giants to resume their torrid hitting and get close to the 7.2 runs they have averaged during their surge to get into wild-card contention.

****4-Star Pick!!!!

Giants (-125)

The fact the Giants have not dropped back-to-back games in nearly a month during their charge into wild-card contention is a good sign, and facing a pitcher trying to re-establish himself in Matz also helps.

Menez is a bit of a mystery, and a major league debut is dicey enough to shy away from taking the Giants on the run line despite their solid play of late.

The dips in his Triple-A numbers compared to Double-A more likely due to the hitter-friendly nature of the Pacific Coast League than quality. But he has impressed scouts with his spin rate on his off-speed pitches as well as a fastball that is consistently in the low-90s and can reach 95 on occasion.

***3-Star Picks!!!

OVER 9 runs (Even)

The number came in on the low side of expectations, which was also enough to take a flyer on the over in this instance. Matz has been awful on the road, going 2-6 with a 6.85 ERA in 10 starts and served up 16 homers spanning 46 innings in those outings.

Despite being held to four runs Saturday, San Francisco is still averaging 7.0 runs since the All-Star break. The over is 11-5-1 in San Francisco’s last 17 games and 6-1 in its last seven versus southpaws, and Matz’s road from plus a major league debut from Menez makes the over look more palatable.

Mets +0.5 runs first 5 innings (-136)

This might be as close as it gets to having a toss-up considering the Giants have been tied at the five-inning mark more than they have led in their 10 games since the All-Star break (4-1-5).

The Mets have also trailed just once in their last eight road games at the midway point, going 4-1-3. While not much is expected of Matz, Menez making his debut could be an equalizer of sorts in keeping this game in a tight enough band where the half-run on New York’s side makes the difference.

UNDER 5 runs first 5 innings (-121)

This has the feel of another toss-up, but the under gets the lean as it has posted a 4-1-1 record heading into the last meeting between the teams this season. The under is also trending individually with both clubs, going 8-2-1 in San Francisco’s last 11 games and 7-2-4 in New York’s last 13.

Giants OVER 1 run first 3 innings (-140)

This pick falls under the something has to give between San Francisco’s resurgent offense and Matz’s first-inning woes. The Giants have not scored in the first three innings of this series after plating 19 runs while doing so five times in the previous seven games.

Matz’s first-inning woes were documented above, and he has a 4.20 ERA in the third. But with opponents having a .302 average and 1.010 OPS in their first time up against the southpaw, the hedge here is the Giants get this done in the first two innings.

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