5 things to watch as Mets and Cardinals play three-game series in St. Louis

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Max Scherzer mid-delivery in blue jersey at Citi Field April 2022
Max Scherzer mid-delivery in blue jersey at Citi Field April 2022

Here are five things to watch when the Mets face the Cardinals during a three-game series in St. Louis...

What can Max Scherzer do for an encore?

In his first start as a Met where he was fully comfortable, which also happened to be his first home start as a Met, Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter against the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday at Citi Field.

Scherzer's final line was tremendous, with the right-hander allowing one run on one hit while walking three and striking out 10 in 7.0 innings.

After carving through the Giants' lineup, Scherzer will get another test against St. Louis. The Cards haven't broken out quite yet, averaging just a shade more than four runs per game, but Nolan Arenado (five homers and a 1.154 OPS) has been a force.

Steven Matz Meets the Mets

Matz pitched against the Mets as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays last July 23, allowing two runs in 5.2 innings. So this won't be his first time facing them since being traded before the 2021 season.

But Wednesday afternoon will be his first time facing the Mets since owner Steve Cohen blasted Matz's agent this offseason in the wake of Matz signing with the Cardinals without his agent giving the Mets a chance to match or exceed the offer.

"I’ve never seen such unprofessional behavior exhibited by a player’s agent," Cohen said at the time. "I guess words and promises don’t matter."

How much rope does Robinson Cano have?

Cano started two of the Mets' games over the weekend in Arizona against the Diamondbacks, going 2-for-7 with three strikeouts. But he has had a rough overall start to the season, slashing .206/.250/.294 with one extra-base hit in 36 plate appearances.

Robinson Cano
Robinson Cano

The sample size on Cano and any other player at this point is still relatively small, but Cano has looked lost and overmatched at the plate at times, alternately flailing at pitches in the dirt (25 percent of his plate appearances have ended with a strikeout) and failing to make much hard contact (his average exit velocity is in the 29th percentile).

With Cano owed $20 million each of the next two seasons, it's hard to envision the Mets cutting him in the near future. But with Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis also on the roster, it will soon be hard to justify giving starts to Cano if he doesn't improve.

The (limited?) Jordan Hicks show

Hicks, whom the Cardinals are converting to a starter, will get the ball on Tuesday.

Hicks lights up the radar gun, with a fastball that has averaged close to 99 mph this season and has topped out at a ridiculous 104.2 mph. He pairs the fastball with a slider, which is the only other pitch he has used this season.

While Hicks can be close to untouchable when he's on, his longest stint so far this season was when he tossed 3.0 innings last Thursday against the Miami Marlins. So he could be limited to 4.0 innings or so against the Mets.

Is the Mets' bullpen for real?

Despite recent hiccups from Edwin Diaz (who allowed a game-tying homer on Friday on a hanging slider) and Trevor May (who allowed a two-run homer the same night on an up-and-in fastball), the Mets' bullpen has been very good since some brief early-season struggles.

Seth Lugo has looked like himself lately, Drew Smith is unscored upon in seven appearances, Chasen Shreve has given up two runs all season, Adam Ottavino has allowed one run in six games, and Joely Rodriguez has been nearly perfect in his last four appearances -- with one walk being his only blemish.

As far as Diaz (2.57 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 15.4 K/9 this season), the Mets will hope that his only recent blip was an aberration.