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New York Mets Must Beat Mother Nature, Justin Verlander's Heat in Return Home

NEW YORK - JUNE 20:  Johan Santana #57 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch against the New York Yankees on June 20, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Sammy MakkiAnalyst IJune 22, 2010

NEW YORK   It's getting awfully hot out there and the Mets will open up a six-game home stand starting tonight against the Detroit Tigers and Justin Verlander's blazing fastball.

For the Mets, this home stand against the top two teams in the A.L. Central, the Tigers and Twins, will be a proving ground for who they are.

They are returning to Citi Field after a more-than-successful road trip where they went 7-2, but the two losses did come in the final two games, which kind of put a damper on the good that transpired. Six and of the seven wins came against the two worst teams in the American League, the Orioles and Indians, although they did their job sweeping those clubs.

Now the Mets will have to face two lineups that have some boppers in them, and it begins tonight with Tigers' first baseman, Miguel Cabrera.

The Mets were used to Cabrera coming to town back in his Florida Marlins days, but now it's been a while since they've faced him. In fact, the last game Cabrera has played in against the Mets was on September 30, 2007, his final game as a Florida Marlin.

Mets' fans have awful memories thinking about that game, the first of the two consecutive collapses. Cabrera was involved in a benches-clearing brawl between the two teams the day before that fateful day, when Jose Reyes and Miguel Olivo went at it.

Now Cabrera comes to town three years later, batting .328, with a Major League-leading 19 home runs and 60 RBI. His .328 batting average is ninth in the big leagues and is the only thing keeping him from competing for the triple crown.

While Cabrera is the big bat in the Tigers lineup, Justin Verlander is the big arm in the Tigers starting rotation. Verlander has already had some kind of career and just like Miguel Cabrera, he's only 27-years-old.

There has only been one season in which Verlander has had a tough time and that was during the 2008 season. Following a 2007 season in which he threw a no-hitter, Verlander went 11-17 in 2008 and seemed to be regressing. He turned things around big time though in 2009, as he put together a career year, winning 19 games with a career-low 3.45 ERA.

Verlander has never been on the Disabled List and that's hard to imagine considering he throws in the upper 90s.

While the Mets will have the hard task of hitting Justin Verlander's hot stuff, the Tigers may be running into a frontline starting pitcher in Jon Niese.

The 23-year-old rookie Niese has won all three starts since returning from the DL and has done it while pitching at least seven innings in each. His last start in Cleveland might have been the least dominant of the three, but if that's a bad outing for Niese, that's pretty good. In his last start on Wednesday at the Indians, Niese went seven innings, allowing three runs on eight hits, while allowing a home run.

Verlander has had the luck recently of facing bad opponents. In seven of his last eight starts, Verlander has faced the Indians, Athletics, Mariners, Royals, Pirates, and Nationals. It's probably fair to say that he'll be facing an upgrade tonight, especially playing at Citi Field, where the Mets are 24-10 this season.

These two pitchers--Niese and Verlander--couldn't be more different than one another. Verlander throws a blazing fastball, while Niese is more of a finesse pitcher, throwing a low-90s fastball, cutter, and huge 12-to-6 curveball.

If Niese is going to win this game, he'd better hope for some offense. The Mets were held scoreless through the final 15 innings of the Yankees series, last scoring a run in the third inning of Saturday's game on Jose Reyes' two-run home run.

The Tigers may not be on the right end of numbers in this series, as they are only 13-19 on the road, compared to 25-11 at home.

This is the first time the Mets are facing the Tigers since 2007 and it's the first time the Tigers have been to the Mets' home since 2004, when the Mets swept them at Shea that June.

This entire home stand should be fun. It all begins tonight as the Mets try and get back on track.

Jon Niese this season (11 starts)
4-2, 3.64 ERA, 64.1 IP, 71 hits, 21 BB, 48 SO

Justin Verlander this season (14 starts)
8-4, 3.54 ERA, 94 IP, 72 hits, 31 BB, 85 SO

All-time season series (New York vs. Detroit)
Tigers lead series 5-4

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