Series Preview: Mets @ Phillies

Ah, it’s that time of the year again. Every series is important, but to fans, games against the Phillies are a whole different ballgame (no pun intended). This rivalry has really been brought up a notch or two since Philly started their dominance of the NL East in 2007, and it’s rather obvious that Charlie Manuel’s bunch has had the upper hand for the most part. However, these two teams are in different places than they are accustomed to: the Mets are holding their own over .500 and the Phillies are under .500 in the basement of the division.

How they’re performing:

New York bounced back from their disappointing road trip by taking two of three from the Arizona Diamondbacks in their short stop at

Apr. 26, 2012; Flushing, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jonathon Niese (49) pitches during the seventh inning against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field. Mets won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

Citi Field before they head to Philadelphia and Miami this week. The Mets are sitting at 15-13 on the season, finding most of their success at home with a 10-6 record at Citi. As usual, New York is in the top-10 in the MLB in team batting average (.263) and on-base percentage (.334), but have only scored 106 runs so far in 2012, ranking 19th in the league.

It has obviously been their pitching that has carried them to their current record; the bullpen struggles has the team ERA sitting at 7th worst in the league at 4.35, but solid starting pitching from Johan Santana (7 IP last appearance) and R.A. Dickey (8+ IP last appearance) that brought New York back to their winning ways.

The Phillies are also depending on their pitching due to injuries, but they are finding themselves under .500 so far for the year and in the basement of the NL East with their 14-15 record. A changing of the guard might be in order this year as they just returned home after losing their match-up with the first-place Nationals. Their .252 team batting average is 12th in the league, but their .297 on-base percentage is only better than a handful of teams. Never thought I would see the day that the Phillies would be struggling to score runs consistently.

On the mound, Philly continues to impress, and will get stronger with the return of Cliff Lee in this series, as he comes off the disabled list. The team’s 3.39 ERA is 8th best, and their 1.23 WHIP (9th) is currently carrying them while Howard and Utley are not in the lineup. As a veteran team that is banged up, the pitching is being put on the microscope, needing to be close to perfect on a nightly basis.

Probable pitching match-ups:

Although the Phillies offense hasn’t been at full strength all season, the return of Cliff Lee marks the rotation getting back to normal. In this series, New York will have the pleasure of dealing with two of the three best pitchers in baseball, as they run out some of their young talent.

Jonathon Niese (NYM) vs. Roy Halladay (PHI)

Miguel Batista (NYM) vs. Joe Blanton (PHI)

Dillon Gee (NYM) vs. Cliff Lee (PHI)

Recent Head-to-Head results:

Yes, we all know that the Mets took the first series of the year against the Phillies in their backyard by winning two out of three at Citizens Bank; David Wright proved to everyone that his fractured pinkie was no big deal, while R.A. Dickey and Jonathon Niese showed that they too can pitch, shutting them out in game two. Since these two are division opponents, they have the pleasure of playing each other 18 times per season. So, how have they fared against one another over the last two years?

Apr. 7, 2012; Flushing, NY, USA; New York Mets second baseman Justin Turner (2) hits an infield single to third base during the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. Mets win 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

In 2010, even though the Phillies easily won the NL East, the division champions split their 18 contests with the Mets right down the middle, and it was dominated by pitching. There were eight different shutouts; the Mets shutout the Phils three times and the Phils returned the favor five times over. Neither team won more than three games in a row, while the Mets completed the only sweep, which took place at Citi Field towards the end of May, part of their 5-4 head-to-head record at home.

Despite being able to hang with the Phillies in 2010, it wasn’t the same story in 2011, a year in which the Mets went 7-11 against Philadelphia, compiling losing records both at home and on the road. Mets pitching wasn’t able to shut out the Philly offense in 2011, but their opposition was able to do so twice. Roy Halladay added three more wins against New York to his four from the year before. The Mets were able to put together a three game win streak from the end of August to September, and Philadelphia won four in a row after dropping their first head-to-head match-up of the season. The two teams locked up for a 14-inning affair on May 1st, a 2-1 victory for New York, with Taylor Buchholz getting the win.

What to watch for:

It will be interesting to see how the Mets handle not having Ruben Tejada in the lineup with his quad injury. Justin Turner is the short-term solution; Ronny Cedeno is nearing his return to the Mets roster, but the Mets are sending Jordany Valdespin to Philly to meet them as a part of the taxi cab provision instituted by the MLB this year. If Tejada hits the DL after he is evaluated today, Valdespin will begin his second tour with the team.

Cliff Lee is making his return from the DL after being shelved for two weeks with an oblique strain. As we all know, the Mets have a lineup that is dominated by left-handed hitters, and coming in with a sparkling 1.96 ERA and 0.696 WHIP in 23 innings pitched, Ike Davis and Lucas Duda may have some problems cleaing up in the middle of the order.

Thanks for reading! You can follow Rising Apple on Twitter at @RisingAppleBlog and like us here on Facebook. You can also follow Matt Musico on Twitter @mmusico8

Topics: Chase Utley, Citi Field, Citizens Bank Park, Cliff Lee, Johan Santana, Jonathon Niese, Matt Musico, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Rising Apple, Roy Hallday, Ryan Howard, Series Preview

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