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Series Preview: Houston Astros at New York Mets

Not all 5-11 records are created equally. At least, that's what the Houston Astros hope to be the case as they head for the friendly confines of Citi Field to take on the New York Mets in a three game series starting Tuesday.

The Mets have scored 4.3 runs per game this season and given up 5.5 runs a game. Houston is dead even with them in runs scored and just underneath them at 5.4 runs allowed. New York just snapped an eight-game losing streak and fell to 2-8 in their last 10. Houston has gone 4-6 over that span. Both teams have fairly good records against other teams under .500, as Houston is 2-2 and the Mets are 1-2. Oh, and both are underperforming their Pythagorean records by two wins.

They've gone about it in a few different ways, but neither team is really playing all that well right now. What will Houston have to hope for in this set?

1) Scoring drought:  In the last seven days, New York has only scored 18 runs. That's the second fewest in the majors, behind Florida and the Chicago White Sox. The Mets played six games in that stretch, scoring an average of 3.0 runs. Houston, meanwhile, has scored 30 runs in a six-game span over the past seven days. Even with the offensive brownout from the Padres series, Houston's offense has to be a small advantage heading into this series.

2) Where's the offense?: The only Mets player swinging the bat consistently well this season is shortstop Jose Reyes, who's hitting .325/.351/.493 this season. Four of the Mets' regulars have slumped badly in the past week. David Wright has been in the worst funk, hitting just .130/.200/.217 in his past 25 plate appearances. First baseman Ike Davis is hitting just .167 with a .222 slugging percentage, but at least he's walked 13 percent of the time in his last 23 plate appearances.

Carlos Beltran has been pretty consistent, but he's not hitting for much power. The former Astro is hitting .278/.381/.333 in his last six games. Scott Hairston, who always seems to do well against Houston, has also been on fire recently, albeit in limited playing time. Hairston has played in all six games in the past week, but only managed 11 plate appearances. In that stretch, he's hitting .364/.364/.727 with a home run. He's also second on the team in the past week with three RBIs.

3) Timing is everything: The Mets will send a rather unspectacular rotation against Houston, but at least two of the pitchers have done well vs. the Astros in the past. Jonathan Niese will start Tuesday. His 0-2 and 6.88 ERA doesn't speak too highly of him, but his FIP is much lower at 4.06. Niese is striking out batters at a good clip this season (7.94 K/9) and his walks are down from last year. Niese has really been hurt by the home runs this season, as 14.6 of the fly balls he's given up have been home runs. That shouldn't be as much of a problem in this series, since Citi Field isn't prone to many home runs.

R.A. Dickey is going to really be a wrench in this series. The knuckleballer shut down Houston twice last season, pitching 15 1/3 innings with an ERA of 1.74 and eight strikeouts. Moving from Niese to Dickey to Chris Capuano could really throw off the Houston hitter's timing.

4) Josh Tolee: This is more what I have to look forward to instead of what the team does, but I thought I'd share. My son watches this cartoon sometimes called Ni Hao, Kai-Lan. On that show, there is a small koala bear named Tolee, which they pronounce the same way that Josh Thole pronounces his last name. So, every time I hear the Mets' catcher's name, I think of this guy. Not cool, Kai-Lan. Not cool.