This weekend, the Reds (35-27) play the Mets in New York for the second time this year, having split a two-game series at Citi Field in mid-May.

Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA Today/Cincinnati Enquirer

The Mets (35-29) are in second place in the NL East, trailing the Washington Harpers by 4.5 games and leading the Atlanta Braves by half a game.

Just like the Reds, the Mets are coming off a sweep – in their case on the road, of Tampa Bay. The Rays pitching staff, who entered the series with the lowest ERA in the American League, was pounded by the Mets hitters. The Mets outscored Tampa Bay 29-9 in the series.

So yes, the Mets are hitting.

On paper, New York has a higher payroll ($93 million) than the Reds, but Johan Santana ($23 million) won’t pitch this series, and former Pirate, Jason Bay ($18 million) is usually a non-factor. Beyond David Wright, the Mets’ All-star third baseman, ($15 million) none of their regular position players make more than $3 million and most play for league minimum.

The two clubs have some history, notably 1973, 1999 (painful to the Reds) and Pete (painful to Bud Harrelson).

PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS

  • Fri. (7:10): Dillon Gee RH (4-4,  3.78 FIP, 8.2 K/9) vs. Bronson Arroyo (2-4, 3.99 FIP, 6.3 K/9)
  • Sat. (7:15): Jonathon Niese LH (4-2, 4.24 FIP, 8.8 K/9) vs. Homer Bailey (4-4, 4.59 FIP, 6.7 K/9)
  • Sun (1:10): Chris Young LH (1-0, 2.78 FIP, 5.1 K/9) vs. Johnny Cueto (7-3, 3.32 FIP, 6.1 K/9)

The Reds miss the Mets’ two best pitchers – Santana, and R.A. Dickey, who came within one play of pitching a no-hitter on Wednesday and is certainly in the NL Cy Young conversation.

Dillon Gee (26) has put together four good starts in a row, including a solid effort against the Yankees last weekend. He’s finished at least 6.2 innings in his last five starts and strikes out nearly one batter per inning. This will be his first start against the Reds.

Jonathon Niese (25) is the one left-handed starter the Reds will face this series. After an inconsistent month of May, Niese has allowed no earned runs in his two starts in June (Yankees, Cardinals) over 13 innings, and he’s yet to lose a game this season at Citi Field.

Chris Young (33) has started two games this year and has not reached the sixth inning. He’s Votto fodder.

METS LIKELY LINEUP

With Jason Bay‘s return to the line-up, the Mets confront a log-jam in the outfield. The past few games they have been playing with a DH so it’s difficult to predict their batting order for this series. Bay plays in LF, forcing Kirk Nieuwenhuis (who hit two home runs yesterday) and Andres Torres to split time in CF. But when Bay doesn’t play LF, the Mets order looks like this:

1. Kirk Nieuwenhuis (L) LF
2. Andres Torres (S) CF
3. David Wright (R) 3B
4. Lucas Duda (L) RF
5. Daniel Murphy (L) 2B
6. Ike Davis (L) 1B
7. Josh Thole (L) C
8. Omar Quintanilla (L) SS

Yep, it’s stacked with left-handed hitters, well-suited to compete against Bronson Arroyo. But vulnerable to Sean Marshall and Aroldis Chapman if the Reds can get there. Bronson does sport a 5-1 lifetime record against the Mets.

Notwithstanding their recent hitting surge, the Mets are average offensively. No more Jose Reyes (lost to Miami via free agency), Carlos Beltran (traded to SF last fall), or pretty-boy Keith Hernandez (retired in 1989).

The remaining Mets’ hitters are led by David Wright (.358/.460.583), who is fifth in WAR in the majors, fifth in AVG, second in OBP, ninth in SLG and third in OPS. He’s only slightly less awesome than Joey Votto.

The Mets acquired Andres Torres from the San Francisco Giants this December in a swap of CF for Angel Pagan.

Omar Quintanilla (30) is the Mets fourth-string shortstop. Starter Ruben Tejada and backups Ronny Cedeno and Justin Turner are all on the DL. Imagine who would be playing SS for the Reds if Zack Cozart, Paul Janish and Wilson Valdez were all hurt. On second thought, don’t think about it.

THE METS BULLPEN

The Mets’ closer is 32-year old Frank Francisco. He’s a pretty typical ninth-inning specialist, having converted 16 of his 19 save opportunities. Francisco has been solid lately, giving up one earned run in his last ten appearances. Bobby Parnell, the Mets’ hard-throwing young gun, and veteran John Rauch set up Francisco. The only LH in the Mets bullpen is Tim Byrdak, of Jay Bruce-fist-in-the-air-division-clinching fame. (Warning: clicking on that link will kill your productivity for the next 6:36.)

METS ON THE DISABLED LIST

  • Mike Baxter – LF – 615-day DL, collarbone.
  • Ronny Cedeno – SS – 15-day DL, calf
  • Justin Turner – 2B/SS – 15-day DL, ankle
  • Ruben Tejada – 2B/SS – 15-day DL, quad
  • Ramon Ramirez – P – 15-day DL, hamstring
  • Mike Pelfrey – SP – season, elbow