Cardinals lead NL from the mound

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The St. Louis Cardinals host the New York Mets tonight in a battle of two teams headed in different directions (7 ET, ESPN and WatchESPN).

Red-hot Cards

The Cardinals boast the NL’s best record and have been fueled by excellent starting pitching (MLB-best 2.25 ERA), and clutch hitting (MLB-best .323 BA w/ RISP).

Best Run Differential - NL This Season

On Monday, Lance Lynn looks to start a new win streak after a hard-luck 2-1 loss his last time out snapped a streak of 10 straight starts without a loss, dating to last season. He was 9-0 over that span with a 2.52 ERA.

Lynn has gotten impressive results when throwing sliders and curveballs this season, recording 38 outs with those pitches versus just 13 total bases allowed, a ratio of nearly 3 to 1.

Last year his ratio of outs to total bases allowed with breaking pitches was about half that: 1.6 to 1. Opponents are batting .186 in at-bats ending with Lynn's breaking stuff, a drop of over 100 points from last year (.288).

The biggest change has come against righties, where you can see how Lynn has improved the location of his pitches:

Mets slowing down

The Mets, on the other hand, have cooled off after a decent start to the season. They are 4-11 over their past 15, scoring just 2.9 runs per game in that span.

Jeremy Hefner starts on the mound tonight for the Mets. They have lost all six of his starts this season (he’s 0-4), providing him just 3.3 runs per game of support in those starts.

The Mets have really struggled without Matt Harvey on the mound this year. They are 6-2 in his starts and 8-18 with other pitchers starting. The Mets rotation aside from Harvey has posted a 5.59 ERA.

Offense has also been a major issue for the Mets of late. The team has the league’s worst combined production from their 1, 4 and 5 spots in the lineup this year -- a .196 BA and .591 OPS, with the majority of those plate appearances coming from John Buck, Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and Ruben Tejada.

Wright on track

David Wright has been an exception to the Mets’ overall offensive woes this season.

David Wright Chase Rate

From from 2009 to 2011, Wright struck out in nearly a quarter of his plate appearances (23 percent of PA), and his average fell to .284 in those years accordingly, well below his previous career rate of .309.

But last year, Wright reduced his strikeouts to his previously established rates (15 percent of PA), and his batting average rose back up to .305.

Wright has adopted a much more disciplined approach at the plate - he's not swinging at pitches out of the zone as often. By laying off pitches outside the strikezone, Wright has increased his walk rate to a career-high 17 percent of plate appearances and his OBP has never been higher.