The first-place New York Mets, seemingly held together all year by a giant Band-Aid, are being tested again.
The visiting Mets, set to open a three-game series at the suddenly hot Miami Marlins on Friday, are especially vulnerable in their rotation. Four pitchers are hurt: Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Tylor Megill and Carlos Carrasco.
On Friday, the Mets will start right-hander Taijuan Walker (5-2, 2.88 ERA).
Walker could provide a lift for the Mets, who are expected to get three-time Cy Young Award winner Scherzer back on Sunday, two-time Cy Young Award winner deGrom back in July and Megill in August.
The status of Carrasco had not been announced after he left a loss to the Houston Astros on Wednesday due to back tightness.
In addition, Mets starting catcher James McCann (broken left wrist) could return this weekend against the Marlins, and the same can be said for third baseman Eduardo Escobar (leg) and utility man Jeff McNeil (hamstring).
"The injuries are tough," Mets reliever Yoan Lopez said, "but there will come a time when we are fully healthy."
In the meantime, the Mets will rely on Walker to give them a quality start on Friday. Walker, 29, is 1-2 with a 3.97 ERA in six career games against the Marlins. He has pitched only once in Miami, going 0-1 with a 6.35 ERA.
The Mets are 6-5 when Walker pitches this year, including his victory over the Marlins on Saturday. He allowed just two hits, one walk and one run in that game, striking out nine batters in 6 2/3 innings.
June has historically been Walker's best month: 13-6 with a 3.09 ERA.
Meanwhile, the Marlins -- who are in fourth place in the National League East as they chase the Mets -- will start right-hander Sandy Alcantara, who is having a career year.
Alcantara (7-2, 1.72 ERA) has a strong shot at starting the All-Star Game. He is second in the majors in ERA and first in a number of categories, including wins above replacement (4.3) and innings pitched (99 1/3).
The Marlins, who have won six straight home games, are 9-5 when Alcantara pitches this year. That includes Alcantara's 6-2 win over the host Mets on Sunday.
In that game, Alcantara allowed just six hits, one walk and two runs, striking out eight batters in eight innings. In 11 career games against the Mets, Alcantara is 3-4 with a 2.76 ERA.
Now, though, the Marlins are hot, too. They just swept the Colorado Rockies in three games, capped by a 3-2 victory on Thursday.
The Marlins are putting a lot of pressure on their opponents due to their speed. Miami's Jon Berti leads the majors with 21 steals. Teammate Jazz Chisholm Jr. has 11 steals, and the two of them have been caught just six times combined.
Miami is 18-14 at home this season. New York is 21-16 on the road.
Though the Marlins face a deep hole in the division, they are confident right now, especially with Alcantara on the mound and coming off the sweep of Colorado.
"There's plenty of season left," Miami manager Don Mattingly said, "but you have to put wins on the board. We need to win two out of three on a regular basis."
--Field Level Media