5 things to watch as Mets and Reds play three-game set in Cincy

Here are five things to watch when the Mets face the Reds in a three-game series in Cincinnati starting on Friday night...

The struggles of Brandon Nimmo, Francisco Lindor, and Jeff McNeil

As the Mets' offense has trudged through an early-season malaise that is the main reason for the team's 1-5 record, three of their most important players are off to starts that are so slow that it almost seems impossible to believe.

But the numbers are the numbers, and here they are...

- Nimmo is 1-for-21
- Lindor is 1-for-24
- McNeil is 1-for-15
That's a combined 3-for-60.

Nimmo has taken better at-bats lately, working deep counts and drawing walks. But Lindor and McNeil -- who has already been moved down in the lineup -- have looked lost, with Lindor chasing pitches out of the zone and McNeil making mostly weak contact on the ground.

If there's any ballpark for the trio to get right in, it could be the hitter-friendly confines in Cincy.

The offense has been unlucky, too

Yes, the Mets' offense has been bad so far.

During Thursday's doubleheader, they were no-hit for 13 straight innings, a string of ineptitude that was the worst for the club in over 50 years.

But the offense has also been unlucky.

In fact, the Mets are the unluckiest team in the majors this season when it comes to the difference between their team wOBA and xwOBA, as noted by Alex Fast.

For an explanation of what that means, let's turn to the official MLB description:

xwOBA is more indicative of a player's skill than regular wOBA, as xwOBA removes defense from the equation. Hitters, and likewise pitchers, are able to influence exit velocity and launch angle but have no control over what happens to a batted ball once it is put into play.

Things tend to even out, so the above should be a sign that the Mets' offense won't be in this malaise for much longer.

Can Luis Severino locate?

Severino's spring training success did not translate to his first start of the season when he gave up 11 hits and six runs (three earned) in five innings against the Milwaukee Brewers.

While Severino allowed tons of hits, a handful of them were of the soft variety. And he was also betrayed by his defense, leading to the three unearned runs and a harder-working start.

New York Mets starting pitcher Luis Severino (40) pitches in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Citi Field.
New York Mets starting pitcher Luis Severino (40) pitches in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Citi Field. / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The fact that Severino struck out six and didn't walk anyone is a sign that he was perhaps not as far off as his line would indicate.

Let's be clear, though: Severino was not good his first time out, due mainly to the fact that he was catching too much plate.

The stuff is there, so if he can locate better against the Reds, stronger results should follow.

The mostly good bullpen

The Mets entered Thursday's doubleheader with the second-best bullpen ERA in the National League.

And aside from Michael Tonkin's ineffectiveness, the bullpen has been pretty good.

Edwin Diaz and Brooks Raley are unscored upon, Drew Smith hasn't allowed an earned run, Jorge Lopez has three scoreless appearances since allowing a run on Opening Day, and Reed Garrett fired three scoreless innings to help the Mets win Game 2 of Thursday's doubleheader.

With New York starting a stretch on Friday of 13 games without a day off, the bullpen will be tested.

Elly De La Cruz and Hunter Greene

Two of the most exciting players for the rising Reds are De La Cruz and Greene, who have had flashes of brilliance.

Greene, who gets the ball on Friday night, has electric stuff but needs to do a better job at limiting base runners -- he had a 1.42 WHIP in 2023, allowing nearly as many hits as innings pitched.

He allowed two runs and struck out seven in 4.2 innings in his first start of the season, but gave up five hits and walked four.

As far as De La Cruz, his tools are off the charts, but he slowed down significantly last season during his rookie campaign after a scorching hot start.

So far this season, De La Cruz is 6-for-24 with a triple and two doubles.