5 things to watch as Mets head to Busch Stadium for weekend set with Cardinals

New York Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil (1) celebrates with center fielder Brandon Nimmo (9) after scoring against the St. Louis Cardinals during the third inning at Busch Stadium
New York Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil (1) celebrates with center fielder Brandon Nimmo (9) after scoring against the St. Louis Cardinals during the third inning at Busch Stadium / Jeff Curry – USA TODAY Sports

Here are five things to watch as the Mets head to Busch Stadium for a four-game weekend set with the St. Louis Cardinals starting on Thursday night at 7:15 p.m.

1. Nimmo’s back in a groove

Brandon Nimmo has been spectacular for the Mets for the most part this season.

He hit a bit of a rough stretch in July, batting just .161 and striking out 21 times, but has finally settled back into a groove. He’s looked more and more like himself during these middle weeks of August.

Nimmo has been dealing with a quad injury but since being moved to left field he says he’s been feeling much better. That was evidenced when he scored from first on a Pete Alonso double on Monday night.

The star outfielder is now hitting .423 over his last seven games with a .531 OBP and just four strikeouts. He’s currently riding an eight-game hitting streak and is getting his power stroke back, having gone yard in two of the three games against the Pirates.

Nimmo, who has been having a bit of a power surge this season, is now tied for his career-high with 17 homers on the year. He also has 19 doubles, four triples, 50 RBI, and a .803 OPS.

The table-setter atop this Mets’ lineup will look to keep things going this weekend against the Cards.

2. McNeil’s returned to form

I touched on this a bit in my last 5 Things to Watch and since then Jeff McNeil has continued rolling right along. After mashing against the Braves he carried it over to the final series of the homestand against the Pirates.

McNeil ultimately saw his hitting streak come to an end at eight games with his 0-for-4 performance on Tuesday night, but prior to that, he was cruising right along. He’s now reached base in all but three games during a scorching hot month of August.

He has a hit in 19 of the 25 games he’s appeared in since the start of the weekend series at Fenway Park which began on July 21. Over that stretch, McNeil is hitting .299 with a .361 OBP, .774 OPS, 13 RBI, and just seven strikeouts.

The 2022 batting champ has gotten back to his slap hitting ways and has become a tough out at the plate again. His K and whiff rates both remain among the top percentiles in all of baseball, according to Baseball Savant.

Staying in his usual form to close out what’s been a disappointing season would be a huge boost for McNeil and the Mets.

New York Mets starting pitcher Jose Quintana (62) pitches against the New York Yankees during the first inning at Yankee Stadium
New York Mets starting pitcher Jose Quintana (62) pitches against the New York Yankees during the first inning at Yankee Stadium / Brad Penner – USA Today Sports

3. Quintana makes his return to St. Louis

Jose Quintana spent the second-half of the 2022 season in a Cardinals uniform.

The left-hander was acquired from the Pirates in a deal ahead of the trade deadline and was stellar for them. He made 12 starts, and like he’s done so far in New York, was a terrific innings eater.

Quintana posted a 2.01 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 48 strikeouts across 62.2 innings of work. He was the first Cardinals pitcher since 1912 to allow two earned runs or less in each of his first seven starts with the team.

Q also tossed 5.1 shutout innings and allowed just two hits in a Wild Card round loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. While he didn’t spend too long there, the 34-year-old certainly enjoyed success during his time with the Red Birds.

Now he’ll look to shutdown their lineup, which has struggled for the most part this season.

Since returning from injury, Quintana has thrown well for the Mets, recording a quality start in four of his five starts. He allowed just one run across six innings of work in a loss last weekend to the Braves.

Quintana will look to keep the ball rolling in his return to Busch Stadium.

4. No Matz for the Cards

The Mets were scheduled to face off with old friend Steven Matz in this series but that will no longer be the case. The southpaw was placed on the IL Monday due to a lat strain and he’s expected to miss significant time, likely several weeks.

This comes at brutal timing for Matz, who had just started to find his groove in the St. Louis rotation.

The Long Island native has allowed just four runs and recorded four quality starts over his last five outings. Over that span he’s pitched to a 1.13 ERA while striking out 19 batters and walking just three.

In his latest start, Matz picked up his fourth win with a 5-4 victory over the last place Kansas City Royals. He allowed just two runs on four hits while striking out five across six solid innings of work.

He’s started 17 games and pitched to a 3.86 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and 98 strikeouts on the year.

5. Ortega rakes against the Cardinals

With the Mets selling at the deadline, it’s given an opportunity to the veteran depth pieces they added this offseason to show what they can do, and among them is outfielder Rafael Ortega.

The 32-year-old has been a bit of a journeyman over his seven-year career, spending time with the Rockies, Angels, Marlins, Braves, Cubs, and now the Mets. While it’s been an up and down career, one of the constants for Ortega is that he mashes against the Cardinals.

In 26 career games against St. Louis, he’s posted a .392 average, .451 OBP, and .992 OPS which is by far his best slash-line against any team. He also added six doubles, a triple, a homer, two stolen bases, and nine RBI over that span.

Ortega has quietly been a pretty solid piece for the Mets since being called up. He has reached base in three of his last five appearances, including a pair of multi-hit games.

Looking even further, Ortega is hitting .350 with a .435 OBP and three RBI over his last seven games. He’ll look to continue that strong stretch this weekend against the Cards.

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