Those stars are on display on Thursday afternoon, as their teams wrap up their four-game series at Busch Stadium. Be sure to tune in, as the finale will be MLB.TV’s Free Game of the Day (Blackout restrictions apply, although live audio still will be available through MLB.TV in local markets.)
Here’s a quick breakdown of the matchup:
How they’re doing
Mets (12-13, 2nd in NL East)
Cardinals (18-13, 1st in NL Central)
The Mets’ win in the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader snapped the Cardinals’ six-game winning streak, but St. Louis still has won 10 of its last 13. While New York hasn’t gotten things going in 2021, that’s true of everyone in the NL East, where the five teams are separated by a total of two games.
The 2020 season is a big opportunity for both of these pitchers. Walker started only four games in 2018-19 due to injury before a stellar return during the shortened 2020 campaign, so he is looking for his first full season since 2017 with Arizona. Gant is getting a chance to be in the rotation after spending all of 2019-20 in the St. Louis bullpen. Both pitchers are capitalizing thus far.
The player to watch
The Mets’ Pete Alonso has been taking must-watch at-bats since he arrived in the Majors in 2019, setting a new rookie home run record (53). Alonso has about as much pure power as anyone in the sport and is showing that again in 2021. The first baseman ranks in the 95th percentile or better in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate this year and leads MLB in 110-plus mph homers since ‘19.
Don’t forget him
The Cardinals’ fleet-footed center fielder, Harrison Bader, is a fly ball-catching machine. Since Bader’s first full Major League season in 2018, he is tied with the Brewers’ Lorenzo Cain for the most Outs Above Average -- a Statcast-based defensive metric -- among outfielders. Bader also got off to a strong start at the plate after being activated from the injured list last week, homering in back-to-back games on Sunday and Monday.
While Arenado has enjoyed a relatively smooth transition to St. Louis, the same cannot be said for Lindor, who is still trying to get things going in a Mets uniform. Lindor has walked (13) nearly as much as he’s struck out (14), but the hits simply are not falling. After an 0-for-3 performance in the opener of Wednesday’s doubleheader dropped his average to .157 with a .478 OPS, Lindor was not in the Mets’ starting lineup for the first time this season in the nightcap.
Number of note
The Mets got a reprieve from facing the Cardinals’ Paul DeJong in 2020, with teams not straying outside of their region during the pandemic-shortened schedule. But DeJong is now back to tormenting the Mets in this series, with four hits, including a double and a home run. He’s slugging .800 against them in his career. On Wednesday, DeJong became the first player to notch 21 extra-base hits in his first 22 games against the Mets.