Back-to-back ugly outings over the weekend left Frank Francisco with an 8.56 ERA, which along with three losses and two blown saves overall this season led to speculation that the Mets were considering a closer change.
Instead manager Terry Collins said today that he’s sticking with Francisco and the team believes his struggles might stem from tipping his pitches, with the idea being that the issue is fixable.
Francisco’s pre-2012 track record as a setup man and occasional closer suggested he was very capable of getting the job done in the ninth inning on a full-time basis, but injuries have clouded that somewhat and his fastball velocity is also down slightly from past years.
Francisco has missed plenty of bats, totaling 15 strikeouts in 13.2 innings, but he’s also handed out seven walks and opponents are hitting .328. Last year with the Blue Jays he had a 3.55 ERA and 53/18 K/BB ratio in 51 innings, so it’s not just blind faith from Collins keeping him in the role … for now, at least. In the meantime Jon Rauch looms as the obvious fallback option.
I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.
Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.
This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.
Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.