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Sputtering Mets look to get in gear vs. Rockies

NEW YORK -- When the 2017 Major League Baseball schedule was revealed late last year, some assumed the second half opener between the New York Mets and Colorado Rockies would pit one team bound for the playoffs against another already on the verge of playing out the string.

New York and Colorado, however, will be playing far different roles than anticipated.

The disappointing Mets will attempt to at least slow the surprising Rockies' march toward the postseason on Friday night in the opener of a three-game series at Citi Field.

New York's Jacob deGrom (9-3, 3.65 ERA) will oppose Colorado's Jon Gray (2-0, 3.75) in a matchup of ace right-handers.

Both teams ended the first half in appropriate fashion Sunday.

Rockies rookie left-hander Kyle Freeland lost his no-hit bid with one out in the ninth inning as Colorado routed the visiting Chicago White Sox, 10-0. The Mets, meanwhile, dropped the rubber game of a three-game series against the host St. Louis Cardinals with a 6-0 decision.

The win was just the fifth in the last 18 games for the Rockies (52-39), whose fast start left them such a margin for error that they still begin the second half with a 7 1/2-game lead in the race for the second wild card. General manager Jeff Bridich said he is confident Colorado is positioned to end a seven-season playoff drought that is the fifth-longest active streak in baseball.

"In terms of the momentum of the season, it's kind of been 2 1/2 good months and then 2 1/2 bad weeks," Bridich told the Denver Post. "I think the way we played baseball in April and May, and half of June, was indicative of the type of talent this team has."

The Mets (39-47) have the opposite problem.

New York, which made the playoffs the previous two seasons, was expected to contend for a World Series berth on the strength of its young rotation but will instead enter the second half 10 1/2 games behind the Rockies. The Mets are closer to the last-place Philadelphia Phillies (10 1/2 games ahead) than the first-place Washington Nationals (12 games behind) in the National League East.

DeGrom has been the only Mets starter to remain on the field and meet expectations this season. Opening Day starter Noah Syndergaard (lat), former ace Matt Harvey (shoulder) and promising rookie Robert Gsellman (hamstring) are out until at least August while current rotation pieces Seth Lugo (elbow) and Steven Matz (elbow) each missed the first 2 1/2 months of the season.

"The record speaks for itself, no matter if you said, 'Geez, we played without a lot of big pieces,'" manager Terry Collins told reporters Sunday. "We are not happy with where we are, certainly. So we've got to use this time to reassess what we've got to do in the second half. And hopefully we start getting some of the pieces back."

DeGrom won his fourth straight start in his most recent appearance last Friday, when he allowed four runs over seven innings as the Mets beat the Cardinals, 6-5. He has a 1.80 ERA in the four consecutive wins.

Gray has won both his starts since returning from an 11-week absence due to a stress fracture in his left foot. He earned the victory on July 5 after giving up three runs (two earned) over 5 2/3 innings as the Rockies defeated the Cincinnati Reds, 5-3.

DeGrom is 2-0 with an 0.95 ERA in four career starts against the Rockies. Gray is 1-0 with a 6.14 ERA in three career starts versus the Mets.

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