Anyway you slice it, midway through the 2012 season, the New York Mets are proving they are a team that shouldn't be taken lightly. At 44-37, the Amazins are 3 1/2 games back of the NL East-leading Nationals and winners of five of their last six games. They remain a half-game out of a Wild Card spot.
Fresh off their 10-run victory over the Philadelphia Phillies and a sterling effort from blossoming lefty Jonathan Niese, the Mets host their cellar-dwelling rivals at 1:10 p.m. EST on Fourth of July in a game that can be seen on SNY. The soft-tossing Chris Young will look to win consecutive starts for the first time since May of 2009. He'll be opposed by Cliff Lee, who has given up four or more runs in four straight outings.
Though the Phillies' ace lefty has pitched over a run (sabermetrically-speaking) better than his 4.13 ERA indicates, he's winless on the season with a 0-5 record. A recipient of bad luck and low run support, Lee is still a tough task for a lineup that often struggles against lefties (.244/.313/.367 line). He's also 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA and 1.05 WHIP against the Mets in his career.
Young, on the other hand, pitches with a goal of keeping hitters off balance in order to induce harmless flyballs, the kind of contact he's given up 55 percent of the time in his five starts this season -- and the kind that generally plays favorably in Citi Field. Young has been quite the find in the fifth spot in the rotation, as his 3.30 ERA (3.08 FIP, 5.32 xFIP) and 1.40 WHIP attests. He's lasted at least six innings in three consecutive starts, as the Mets rotation continues to provide length and mask the deficiences in the bullpen.
With the All-Star break five games away, the Mets need to take advantage of a struggling team once considered the favorites in the division. Philadelphia is currently 12 games behind the Nationals. New York has averaged eight runs over their last six, and is 1-1 in that stretch against teams that have started a lefty.