Series Preview: New York Mets @ Philadelphia Phillies
The Mets are heading to Philadelphia to take on the Phillies after doing something they haven’t done since the beginning of August. That, of course, is win two games in a row. Despite taking the series at home against the Houston Astros, Terry Collins’ club is 3-7 in their last 10 games, and at 59-69, they are 18.5 games out of first in the NL East, and have watched the Phillies leap frog them in the standings. Sandy Alderson and the organization would like to finish in front of Philly and Miami by the end of next month, and doing it against the Phillies could be a good starting point, as they’re 8-4 playing them in 2012, including winning five of six at Citizens Bank.
How the opposition is doing:
Unlike the Mets, the entire 2012 season has been a disappointing one for the Phillies, and outside of signing Cole Hamels to a long-term extension, fans watched Ruben Amaro wave the flag for this season by dealing Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino. However, they’re enjoying their best stretch of the season, winning seven of ten, including their current four game win streak as they’re fresh off a sweep of the Nationals. They are now in third place in the division, sporting a 61-67 record.
Although he’s been out for the better part of the month, Carlos Ruiz continues to be the best performing offensive player for Charlie Manuel, as he’s hitting .335/.399/.559 this season. Juan Pierre (.299/.342/.363) is having a bounce back season, but once Pence and Victorino were traded away, so were big sources of their offense. Once they made their returns, the Phillies were hoping that Chase Utley (.249/.357/.452) and Ryan Howard (.245/.329/.450) would jump start the offense, but it hasn’t really happened. Pitching, which has been the strong point of Philly over the last five years, hasn’t been in 2012. Jonathan Papelbon (29 saves, 2.70 ERA in 52 games) has done his job, but Roy Halladay (8-7 3.88 ERA) and Cliff Lee(3-7, 3.67 ERA) haven’t exactly been the three-headed monster everyone thought they’d be with Hamels (14-6, 2.99 ERA).
Probable pitching match ups:
Chris Young (3-7, 4.33 ERA) vs. Vance Worley (6-9, 4.06 ERA)
It’s been a tough season for Chris Young, as his latest stretch of losing six of his last seven decisions includes his most recent start; it was his own throwing error that was the difference, despite being perfect through five innings. He’ll have to figure out how to retire the lefty dominated lineup he is bound to see, as he owns a 5.30 ERA against left-handed hitters, compared to the 3.57 ERA he has against righties. Meanwhile, Worley has also had a tough couple of months; in his last 10 starts, he’s 2-5 with a 5.60 ERA, but has also given up 77 hits and 22 walks in 54.2 innings pitched during that stretch. He doesn’t enjoy pitching at home (2-5, 5.00 ERA), but he’s hoping to turn that around tonight.
Matt Harvey (2-3, 2.75 ERA) vs. Cole Hamels (14-6, 2.99 ERA)
With Hamels signing his six-year contract extension last month, Mets and Phillies fans will be seeing this match up for years to come. Harvey is hoping to add to his franchise-record 43 strikeouts in six starts in his next challenge against Cole Hamels, as he’s been having more luck pitching in night games (2-2, 1.74 ERA) rather than day games (0-1, 9.00 ERA). Hamels is taking his second crack at tying his career high for most wins in a season as he takes on the the Mets. Despite getting off to a fantastic start this season (8-1, 2.49), he struggled a bit through June and July (2-4, 4.22). He’s returned to form in August, and is looking to close out his best month of the year, as he currently has a 3-1 record and 1.86 ERA.
Jonathon Niese (10-7, 3.51 ERA) vs. Kyle Kendrick (7-9, 4.12 ERA)
Niese is looking to get back in the win column against Philly after the Mets offense couldn’t muster any run support in his last start. Not only has Jon performed much better in day games (4-1, 2.85 ERA) this season, but he’s done just as well against the Phillies in his four starts against them in 2012, as he has a 2-0 record and 2.55 ERA against New York’s division rivals. Kyle Kendrick is enjoying one of his best streaks of the season, as he’s won his last three starts while also providing three straight quality starts. The key to Kendrick’s recent success is his ability to shut the opposition down as it gets later in the inning. Although his ERA still rises from no outs in an inning to two outs (3.24 to 4.66) he’s improved drastically of late.
The Mets will win this series if:
The offense can score more than three runs in a game. Going to a hitter friendly park like Citizens Bank, it can only help Ike Davis continue to stay hot, as well as enable David Wright and Ruben Tejada to catch fire. They will need to work the starting pitchers into deep counts early in the game, forcing Manuel to go to his bullpen early, where only Raul Valdes has more than 25 appearances in relief this season with an ERA under 3.50.
Robert Carson and Josh Edgin will most likely be coming into games this week in big spots against Chase Utley and/or Ryan Howard. They are the biggest offensive threats in the Philly lineup, so New York must make sure they don’t beat them.
It should be an interesting series, as it usually is against these two rivals…Let’s go Mets!