Here are five things to watch when the Mets and Tigers play a three-game series in Detroit starting with a doubleheader on Wednesday...
Justin Verlander's Mets debut
It's coming about a month after he and the Mets hoped, but Verlander -- who has been working his way back from a teres major injury -- will be making his debut on Thursday afternoon against the team he spent the first 12 1/2 years of his career with.
Verlander's road back has been smooth, but it was also deliberate as he took each step, culminating with a rehab start this past Friday for Double-A Binghamton.
His return to the rotation comes at a time when the Mets really need it, after having to patch things together for the last few weeks with Max Scherzer suspended, Carlos Carrasco out and Jose Quintana out, and David Peterson (who was just optioned to Triple-A Syracuse) not performing well.
The Mets' vaunted 1-2 punch will be together for the first time, with Verlander's start coming right after...
Max Scherzer's return
Scherzer was initially supposed to return from his 10-game suspension on Monday against the Braves at Citi Field, but two rainouts -- and one of the games against Atlanta being rescheduled to August -- meant his suspension got pushed through Monday since it was the 10th game.
That Scherzer being suspended in the first place was ridiculous is no longer the most important thing.
What matters now is how Scherzer looks when he takes the ball against the Tigers (and every start after). And he was starting to look really good before being ejected against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
Much has been made of Scherzer's first handful of starts, but the fact is that the sample size is small and his velocity is basically where it was through the same amount of starts in 2022 -- when he finished with the lowest ERA of his career.
Brett Baty and Francisco Alvarez are getting comfortable
With Baty finally being allowed to start against some left-handers and Alvarez no longer nailed to the bench, the two of them -- shocker -- are starting to look very comfortable at the plate.
Baty entered play on Monday with a triple slash of .333/.394/.467, including a hit against lefty Max Fried in Friday's rain-shortened game. That followed a 3-for-3 night against the Nationals. To top things off, he launched a 430-foot home run off lefty Dylan Lee in Monday's first game.
As for Alvarez, he has been taking much better at-bats over the last week or so, and has hits in each of his last five starts, including the go-ahead two-run double in Monday's Game 2 doubleheader win over Atlanta.
It never made sense for the Mets to be playing Alvarez sporadically while giving Tomas Nido the bulk of the starts behind the plate, and it seems like they've finally come around.
The Tigers' offense has been anemic
The American League Central, with just one team at .500 or better (the 17-12 Twins) is very bad, and the 10-17 Tigers are not only the lowest-scoring team in the division, but the lowest-scoring team in all of MLB.
With 88 runs scored, Detroit is averaging 3.25 runs per game.
The Tigers have lost four of their last five games and eight of their last 11, and have scored more than four runs just once since April 15.
Detroit's pitching hasn't been much better, as their staff has allowed 135 runs. Only eight teams in the majors have given up more.
The start of an "easy" stretch
Theoretically, the Mets' series with the Tigers should be the start of an easy 13-game stretch.
But they'll have to actually take advantage of it -- something they failed to do last week against the Washington Nationals.
Following their three-game set with Detroit, here's what the Mets' schedule looks like, with the record of their upcoming opponent in parentheses:
Three games at Citi Field against the Rockies (9-20)
Three games in Cincinnati against the Reds (12-16)
Four games in Washington, D.C. against the Nats (10-17)