Major League Baseball

Rookies take center stage as Mets host Padres

mlb5PADRES (47-52) AT METS (45-54)
7:10 p.m. ET; SNY, FSSD, MLB.TV

The New York Mets (-1.5) and San Diego Padres (-1.5) enter Tuesday’s contest a combined 14 games under .500. Good thing Pete Alonso and Chris Paddack will be there to liven things up.

The two leading contenders for the National League Rookie of the Year get their last chance to square off against each other when the Mets host the Padres in the opener of a three-game series.

Both teams were off Monday after concluding road series on Sunday. The Mets fell to the San Francisco Giants (+1.5) 3-2 in 12 innings. The Padres salvaged the finale of a three-game set by beating the Chicago Cubs (-1.5) 5-1.

Mets left-hander Jason Vargas (4-5, 4.25 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound against Paddack (6-4, 2.70).

Of course, few at Citi Field will be there to see the battle between the 36-year-old soft-tossing Vargas and the 23-year-old fireballing Paddack. The main attraction should arrive when Alonso steps to the plate against Paddack in the resumption of an entertaining duel that began before they faced each other for the first time in San Diego on May 6, a few days after Alonso won the NL Rookie of the Month award.

“He’s a great player, no doubt,” Paddack told The Athletic at the time. “Does he deserve the (Rookie of the Month award)? Absolutely. But I’m coming for him.

“Do I wish it was me? Yeah. But the way I look at it is, do you want to be Rookie of the Month or Rookie of the Year? We’ll see, man.”

Paddack won the individual battle May 6, when he not only earned the victory with 7 1/3 scoreless innings in the Padres’ 4-0 blanking of the Mets but also struck out Alonso in his first two at-bats before inducing a groundout in the sixth.

“He’s allowed to say what he wants,” Alonso told reporters afterward. “He wanted me and he got me tonight, simple as that. It kind of fired me up and it was going to be a good matchup, and I didn’t answer the bell.”

Fortunately for Alonso, he’s created some distance from Paddack over the last two-plus months.

With a franchise rookie-record 33 home runs and the Home Run Derby crown on his resume, Alonso is the clear front-runner for the NL Rookie of the Year. Paddack, who was sent to the minors for 10 days in June and slotted fifth into the Padres’ post-All-Star Break rotation in order to limit his innings, has struck out 95 batters while allowing just 78 baserunners in 90 innings.

But Paddack could make things interesting with more outings like the one he had last Wednesday, when he flirted with a no-hitter in a 3-2 win over the Miami Marlins (-1.5). Paddack allowed one run on one hit — a leadoff homer in the eighth by Starlin Castro — over 7 2/3 innings.

Vargas earned the win last Wednesday, when he gave up three runs over six innings as the Mets beat the Minnesota Twins (+1.5) 14-4. He is 2-2 with a 4.80 ERA in five starts against the Padres.

–Field Level Media

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