5 things to watch as Mets host Julio Rodriguez and Mariners for weekend set at Citi Field

Aug 16, 2023; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets right fielder DJ Steward (29) hits a home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the second inning at Citi Field.

Here are five things to watch as the Mets welcome Julio Rodriguez and the red-hot Seattle Mariners for a three-game weekend set Citi Field starting on Friday at 7:10 p.m.

1. Stewart continues raking

The Mets may’ve found something in DJ Stewart.

The veteran outfielder appeared in two of the three games last series against the Rangers and he launched three home runs total in the series, including a clutch game-tying shot in the bottom of the eighth on Wednesday.

Stewart, who has been on an incredible hot streak of late, also drove in the winning run with a walk-off hit-by-pitch. He now has nine homers and 18 RBI on the year to go along with a stellar 1.015 OPS.

Eight of those home runs have come over his last 15 games and he’s hitting a scorching .347 over that stretch. He’s also added 16 RBI to his ledger while posting a .396 on-base percentage and 1.294 OPS.

Stewart, a former first-round pick, battled numerous injures over the first few seasons of his big-league career. When healthy, though, he was a relatively solid power bat for Buck Showalter and the Orioles.

With the way he’s been playing, the 29-year-old just might be playing his way into a bench spot for next season. He’ll look to keep things rolling over the weekend against the Mariners.

2. Another big test for Senga on extra rest

Mets right-hander Kodai Senga has passed every test thrown his way so far during his impressive rookie season.

With Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander gone, the 30-year-old has absolutely shined atop the Mets’ starting rotation and is making a strong case to at least be in the National League Cy Young conversation.

Senga worked around a bit of an adjustment period, but has pitched to a 3.17 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and has 164 strikeouts on the year. He’s been spectacular, recording a quality start in 12 of his 24 outings.

His last time out, Senga saw his three-game winning streak come to an end with a tough-luck loss. He allowed just two runs on four hits while walking three and recording double-digit strikeouts (10) for the third time.

He’s now posted a 2.89 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 51 strikeouts while walking just 17 batters since the All-Star break.

Senga was lined up to start the finale against the Rangers, but the Mets elected to give an extra day of rest instead. He’ll still have a tall task in front of him as he faces the red-hot Mariners in the series opener instead.

Mar 3, 2023; Port St. Lucie, Florida, USA; New York Mets shortstop Ronny Mauricio (60) runs off the field against the Washington Nationals during the sixth inning at Clover Park.

3. Mauricio’s time to shine

With rosters expanding, the Mets are finally calling up top prospect Ronny Mauricio for his highly anticipated MLB debut, according to reports.

The 22-year-old has been red-hot of late with Syracuse. He made an extremely strong push for his call-up in August, putting together one of his best stretches of the season.

Mauricio had five doubles, went deep seven times, and drove in 15 runs while posting a .915 OPS across 24 games. He also drew 11 walks, which is the most he's recorded in any month this season.

That stretch just continues what's been a tremendous breakout season for Mauricio. He's hit .296 with 30 doubles, 23 home runs, 24 stolen bases, 71 RBI, and an International League-leading 143 hits.

Mauricio has experience at second, shortstop, third and left field, so he should play every day with the big-league team over the final month of the season.

We’ll likely get our first look at the youngster on Friday night.

4. Seattle’s been dominating

Speaking of that, yeah, Seattle’s been pretty good of late.

In fact, they’ve been one of the top teams in all of baseball since the beginning of July (38-15) and have scratched their way right back into the thick of things in an extremely tight race for the American League West pennant.

They are currently tied with the Astros for first place in the division and have a one-game lead over the Rangers, thanks to the Mets’ series finale win Wednesday.

Seattle won a franchise-record 21 games during the month of August and lost just six. They won seven of their eight series, securing four sweeps, including an impressive three-game set over the Astros on the road.

Simply put, they are absolutely dominating right now, but the Mets will look to put that to an end this weekend at Citi Field.

5. J-Rod’s coming to town

Seattle’s been dominating as a whole, but one of the biggest reasons they’ve turned things around is because of the play of superstar outfielder Julio Rodriguez.

J-Rod missed the final two games of the Mariners’ series against the Athletics with left foot soreness and is listed as day-to-day. He seemed to be trending towards a return for the series finale, so with Thursday’s off day there’s a chance he may be back in the starting lineup Friday.

Prior to sitting out, the 22-year-old was enjoying a ridiculous stretch of play. Dating back to July 1, he has 17 doubles, 11 homers, and 45 RBI to go along with a 1.010 OPS.

Rodriguez is currently riding a 13-game hitting streak, including home runs in three consecutive games. Looking even further, he has a hit in 15 of his last 16 games and is hitting a ridiculous .472 with a five four hit games, a 1.326 OPS and 25 RBI over that stretch.

Rodriguez is beyond locked in right now, so hopefully he’s able to get back so we can enjoy one of the top young talents in the game this weekend.