The Mets return to Flushing for their last home stand of 2012 and hope to give the Citi Faithful something to cheer about, instead of leaving a bitter taste in their mouth for the winter. At 66-80, New York is in danger of enduring their fourth straight losing season, and most of the losing this second half has come at home. They’re 30-41 at Citi this season, thanks to a 4-21 record in following the All-Star game. With a .313/.401/.495 line, David Wright still leads the offense in most categories despite a rough couple months, but fans will be watching him as he inches closer to Ed Kranepool’s franchise record for hits.
How the opposition is doing:
A recent hot streak by the Phillies have them right back in the thick of the Wild Card race after it looked as if their season was over, especially after trading away Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence. Charlie Manuel’s team has gone 7-3 in their last ten games despite losing their most recent series to the Houston Astros, but at 73-74, they’re only 4 games out of the last spot for the postseason.
Kevin Frandsen has done a great job filling in for the injured Placido Polanco at 3rd base, hitting .343/.390/.406 in 139 at-bats this season. Carlos Ruiz (.336 BA) and Juan Pierre (.311 BA) have continued leading the rest of the offense, just as they’ve done all season. What’s surprising is that Jimmy Rollins leads the squad with 20 home runs, and Pence’s 17 long balls are still second on the team. While missing about half the season, both Chase Utley and Ryan Howardhave 10 homers each. Rollins’ 61 RBI and 88 runs scored are also the high points for the Phillies roster.
Philadelphia has been able to get back in the hunt for October because of their pitching. Jonathan Papelbon has continued to have a stellar season for the Phils (5-6, 2.44 ERA, 34 saves), but Raul Valdes has been a surprise, as the southpaw owns a 2.90 ERA in 27 appearances. Cole Hamels has had a fantastic season, and it shows on the stat sheet; he owns the lowest ERA on the starting staff, sporting a 3.06 mark, his 15 victories are most on the staff, and no pitcher in a Phillies uniform has thrown more innings (197.1 IP) or struck out more hitters (192 K’s) than Hamels. Roy Halladay is the only other hurler with double-digit wins (10).
Probable pitching match-ups:
Most of the season has been an unlucky one for Cliff Lee; however, in his last six starts, he’s gone 3-0 with a 1.73 ERA. Lee has put together more wins in the last month than he had in his first 20 starts of the season. Terry Collins will most likely be putting a bunch of right-handed hitters in the lineup since Lee has a 1.83 ERA against lefties, and a 3.79 mark against righties. With approximately four starts left in his season, R.A. Dickey is taking his second crack earning his 19th win of the season. The knuckleballer will look to continue his good fortune in front of the home crowd, where he’s 8-2 with a 2.55 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. They key for him against the Philly lineup is to get ahead in the count, where he owns a 1.44 ERA this season. When he falls behind, his ERA balloons up to 5.13.
In a match-up of young pitching prospects, Tyler Cloyd takes the hill to face off against Matt Harvey. Cloyd struggled in his last start, only going 3 innings in taking his second straight no-decision. Although he’s only walked walked 3 hitters in 20 innings pitched, it’s imperative that he stays ahead of hitters. In that situation, he holds a 2.16 ERA, but when he falls behind, his ERA jumps to 6.35. Harvey will be making his final start of 2012, as he’s thrown 162.1 innings between Triple-A and the Majors this season. He registered his second double-digit strikeout showing in 9 starts with the Mets, but only went 5 innings in a loss against the Nationals. Despite having a lower ERA and WHIP at home (2.12, 1.18) than on the road (3.31, 1.25), he’s still looking for his first career win in front of the Met faithful.
Cole Hamels (15-6, 3.06) vs. Jeremy Hefner (2-6, 4.99 ERA)
Hamels is enjoying his most recent hot streak, as he hasn’t lost since August second and is 4-0 in his last 7 starts. During that stretch, he pitched two consecutive complete game shutouts. He’s ready to pitch on the road, where he’s gone a healthy 9-3 this season with a 3.24 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. During his dominant stretch, he’s struck out 45 hitters in his last 51.2 innings pitched. Although it’s still up in the air as to who Collins will send to the mound for the series finale, it sounds as if he’s leaning towards Hefner. The young hurler is hoping to turn around this month, especially after going 1-1 with a 3.16 ERA in 6 appearances (3 starts in August). In September, Hefner has appeared in 3 games, 2 of which have been starts, and has struggled with an 0-1 record and 7.45 ERA.
This season has been more frustrating for Mets fans than anything else, but one constant has been New York handling Phillies rather easily. They have already taken the season series before the start their final three-game tilt tonight with a 10-5 record. What has been most impressive is that the Amazins have dominated Philly at Citizens Bank, going 7-2, while staying even at home with a 3-3 record. Wright and Ike Davis are hoping for more of the same, as they try to build upon their +15 run differential against their divisional rivals. Let’s go Mets!