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5 things to watch as Mets face Rockies during three-game series in Colorado

Apr 9, 2023; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets starting pitchers Max Scherzer (left) and Justin Verlander stand together in the dugout during the seventh inning against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field.

After going 1-2 in Chicago against the Cubs, the Mets move on to Colorado for a three-game series with the Rockies this weekend.

The Rockies are 22-29 for the season but playing better in recent weeks -- 14-9 since April 30. During that period they won two of three games against the Mets at Citi Field in early May.

Here are five things To watch for in the series:

1. Back-To-Back Aces

Coming off their doubleheader dominance last Sunday, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander will pitch the first two games of the series, with very different track records at Coors Field.

For Scherzer, like a lot of pitchers, pitching at high altitude in Denver has been a nightmare. Over his long career he’s 0-3 with a 6.39 ERA in six starts at Coors. It’s his highest ERA in any National League ballpark.

Verlander, however, has excelled there, albeit in fewer opportunities. In two starts at Coors he is 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA.

Meanwhile, Sunday’s starter, Tylor Megill, will be making his first start at Coors Field.

2. Alonso’s Power Surge

Pete Alonso takes his hot home run bat to a ballpark where he has excelled during his career.

With six home runs in his last nine games, including a two-run shot Thursday night at Wrigley Field, Alonso has 19 for the season. He leads the majors and has tied his own Mets record for most home runs before June 1.

Alonso didn’t have much success against Rockies’ pitching at Citi Field a few weeks ago, going 1-for-9 with just a single, but he has enjoyed hitting at Coors Field. In nine games there he is hitting .400 (14-for-35) with three home runs and two doubles, which adds up to a .714 slugging percentage.

3. Rockies’ Makeshift Rotation

Starting pitching has been the Rockies’ biggest downfall, as evidenced by their 5.69 ERA, which ranks 14th in the National League, and now their rotation has been weakened by injuries as well.

As a result, the Rockies’ first two starters in the series, Connor Seabold and Chase Anderson, are fill-ins who have made only six starts between them.

Sunday’s starter, meanwhile, is Austin Gomber, who has a 6.48 ERA but pitched well against the Mets at Citi Field, allowing two runs over six innings.

4. The Daily Lineup Watch

Nothing generates more reaction on social media these days than the pregame posting of the Mets’ lineup, mostly centering around the question of who is handling the DH duties.

It comes down to this: While most fans -- or at least an opinionated segment of them -- want to see rookie Mark Vientos get regular at-bats to find out if his minor-league power will translate at the big-league level, Buck Showalter has continued to use Daniel Vogelbach as the DH against right-handed pitching.

Vogelbach has been slumping in recent weeks, and he drives fans a little crazy with his habit of taking a lot of pitches. He draws his share of walks but has also struck out looking 16 times his season -- 16 out of his 31 strikeouts overall.

With right-handers scheduled to start the first two games of the Rockies series, the watch will be on to see if the pattern continues.

5. The Kid Catcher’s Ascension

Francisco Alvarez seems to be improving by leaps and bounds as he gets more experience as the No. 1 catcher. He’s earned raves for his defense and now he’s starting to put up impressive numbers offensively as well.

In his last five starts the 21-year-old Alvarez is hitting .444 with three home runs and a double -- and perhaps just as significantly, no strikeouts.

The hot streak has raised his season average to .261 with a .831 OPS. After struggling and chasing pitches when he was called up in April, Alvarez has been looking like he might just live up to his potential as a much-hyped prospect. In the month of May he is hitting .306 with a 1.021 OPS.