May 18, 2012; Philadelphia, PA USA; Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon (58) celebrates after getting final out against the Boston Red Sox in the 9th inning at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Red Sox, 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

Series Preview: Phillies @ Mets


It’s that time again; the Phillies and Mets are getting together for their third match-up of the year. This time, the contests will take place at Citi Field for the first time in 2012. So far, the Mets have dominated their head-to-head match-ups with Philly, but we won’t get into that just yet. The NL East is tight right now, with five games separating all four teams, but the Mets are the closest to the first-place Nationals, as they come into this series with the third most wins the the National League with a 27-21 record. They have won their last two series against the Pirates and most recently against the Padres, improving to 6-4 in their last 10 games and 15-9 at home.

As for the Phillies, even though they have managed to get themselves over the .500 mark at 25-24, they are hardly on a hot streak at the moment. Being five games behind the Nationals puts them in the basement of the division, where they have been for quite some time this year, and I’m sure it’s starting to feel weird for an organization that has won five division titles in a row. They lost two of three at home against Washington early last week, but just took three of four in St. Louis; Philly is 5-5 in their last 10 games and are happier to be on the road than be at Citizen’s Bank, as they are 14-11 away from their home fans.

How they’re performing:

As a team, the Mets are hanging on to dear life to try and stay in the top-10 in the MLB in team batting average; they are currently sitting at .258, tied with the White Sox and Diamondbacks for 10th in the league. However, their .334 OBP is good enough to ranks sixth-best. Despite three

Apr 25, 2012; Flushing, NY, USA; New York Mets third baseman David Wright (5) high fives teammate Lucas Duda (21) after they both score on the double by New York Mets right fielder Mike Baxter (not pictured) in 8th inning against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/The Star-Ledger via US PRESSWIRE

straight hitless games, David Wright is still leading the offensive charge in just about every category, starting with his .382 batting average. Behind him, Mike Baxter (.345) has used his hot streak to get more consistent playing time, Daniel Murphy (.298) continues to give Wright some protection, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis (.288) is showing the Mets faithful that the future is now. Even though their run differential is still atrocious, New York has climbed over the 200-runs scored mark (204) and rank 15th in the MLB.

As for pitching, the team ERA (4.33) and team WHIP (1.35) are still ranking in the lower third of Major League Baseball, but it was solid pitching over the last three games that carried New York to their series victory over the San Diego Padres. Dillon Gee, Johan Santana, and R.A. Dickey combined to give up just one run in their starts, and the bullpen has been spectacular, with Tim Byrdak and Frank Francisco specifically in mind.

The Phillies are still struggling as an offense without the presence of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, but they’re finding ways to adjust; their .266 team BA is 6th in the MLB, and their .319 OBP ranks 15th. Mike Fontenot (.444 in 10 games) has come on to give the Phils a boost, while Carlos Ruiz (.366) shows that he’s a force, and Juan Pierre (.314) has brought his career back to life. Hunter Pence is doing his best to supply the power, leading the team in home runs (11) and RBI (30).

On the other hand, pitching has never really been an item of concern for manager Charlie Manuel. The team’s 3.67 ERA 12th in the league, while their team WHIP is tied for third in the league at 1.20. This charge has been lead by Cole Hamels (2.17 ERA), today’s starter. With Cliff Lee going on the disabled list and Roy Halladay having some uncharacteristic up-and-down starts, he’s been the rock. Also, Jonathan Papelbon has been doing his job in his first g0-round in the city of Brotherly Love, converting all 14 of his save opportunities and holding a 2.33 ERA.

Probable Pitching match-ups:

While neither team is running out the top of their rotation for this series, there are quite a few intriguing match-ups that are set to happen over the beginning of this week that should be a lot of fun to watch:

Cole Hamels (PHI) 7-1, 2.17 ERA vs. Jonathon Niese (NYM) 3-2, 4.29 ERA

Joe Blanton (PHI) 4-4, 4.55 ERA vs. Jeremy Hefner (NYM) 0-2, 6.17 ERA

Cliff Lee (PHI) 0-2, 2.82 ERA vs. Dillon Gee (NYM) 4-3, 4.92 ERA

Hamels has been acting as the stopper for this Phillies team of late; after throwing his first shutout since 2007, Blanton is coming off two of his worst performances ever in pro ball, and Lee is still winless despite his dazzling ERA. For the Mets, Niese is looking to build upon his dominant peformance against the Pirates, Hefner is looking forward to pitching without a rain delay, and Gee is trying to win his third start in a row, while attempting to lower his 7.50 career ERA against Philadelphia.

Recent head-to-head contests:

The Mets and Phillies have met twice already in 2012, with both meetings taking place at Citizens Bank Park. New York improved upon their 402-459 all-time record against the Fightin’ Phils by taking the first five of six meetings. While their overall run differential is -21, they have outscored Philadelphia 34-22 so far, averaging 5.67 runs per game. There has already been a shutout thrown, and it was in the second match-up of the year, a game that was started and won by today’s starter, Jonathan Niese. Coincidentally, Cole Hamels won the lone game for the Phillies

in the finale of the first series these two teams played against one another. Currently, the Mets are enjoying a three game winning streak against Philadelphia since they are coming off a sweep in their last meeting at Citizen’s Bank.

After this series, the Phillies will be making another trip to Citi Field the next time these two teams meet, but it won’t be until July 3rd for the next match-up between these division foes.

What to watch for:

For the Mets, it’s obvious that everyone will be watching what Terry Collins does with Ike Davis. Before Sunday’s win, Collins told the media that Davis would be in the lineup on Sunday and Monday, even though Hamels would be on the mound. I think his performance and how he approaches his at-bats today will be the deciding factor as to whether or not he’s in the lineup against Lee in the finale. Also, watch for how Dillon Gee performs; he has historically pitched poorly against the Phillies, but he’s coming off two straight productive starts and will be pitching at home, all working in his favor.

In the Philadelphia camp, watch for the performance of Carlos Ruiz. He’s one of the most underrated catchers in the game, and even though he’s most well-known for his defense, he’s pretty impressive in the batter’s box as well. Him and Hunter Pence have pretty much put the entire offense on their backs while Howard and Utley try to make their way back to the lineup. Also, watch for Jonathan Papelbon and his return to New York as a Phillie instead of a Red Sox. He gave up a three-run bomb to Jordany Valdespin in his last appearance against the Mets, so you know he’s looking for blood.

This should be an entertaining series, as it normally is….Let’s Go Mets!

Tags: Carlos Ruiz Chase Utley Daniel Murphy David Wright Dillon Gee Hunter Pence Jeremy Hefner Jonathon Niese Matt Musico Memorial Day New York Mets Philadelphia Phillies Phillies @ Mets Rising Apple Ryan Howard Series Preview