The New York Mets enter Thursday's series against the Philadelphia Phillies in first place in the National League. But, like every divisional series, this matchup is an important one, as a divisional record is important when it comes to who wins the division.
The Mets have won four of their first six games against the Phillies thus far this year, winning two games in both the series at home and the road. Today they will start a four-game series at Citizen's Bank Park, and the team will look to stay on top of the division. But in order to do so, the team's pitching must stop one-hitter in the Phillies lineup.
Kyle Schwarber has dominated Mets pitching
Despite winning both series against the Phillies this year, there has been one player who has been a consistent thorn in the side for the Mets. Kyle Schwarber has dominated Mets pitching for much of his career, and that has not changed this season. According to the Ultimate Mets Database, Schwarber is a .320 lifetime hitter against the Mets across 122 at-bats, which is significantly higher than his batting average against the rest of the league.
Schwarber may not hit for a high average, but he knows how to get on base, as he draws a lot of walks. But, what he is most known for is his prolific power bat. According to Baseball-Reference, Schwarber has hit over 30 home runs in a season three times in his professional career and has another season where he finished with 26. However, it is the Mets who fear him more than anyone else as he now has 16 home runs against the Mets in 36 career games, spanning his time with the Cubs, Nationals, Red Sox, and Phillies.
However, it doesn't end there as ESPN released a stat during the Sunday Night Baseball Broadcast that showed that Schwarber now has 12 home runs in his last 11 games against the Mets. That is tied for the most ever in an 11-game span against one team. Clearly, while Schwarber has always dominated the Mets, his recent tear has taken it to another level, as his power surge against the Mets is historic.
Mets pitchers must find a way to slow him down
Obviously slowing down a player this scorching hot is easier said then done. But it is something that Buck Showalter, and the Mets pitching staff must find a way to do. The team will have to be very careful when he's at the plate, and should consider intentionally walking him whenever there are men in scoring position, and there's still a base open.
Max Scherzer, Chris Bassitt, Edwin Diaz, and the rest of the Mets pitching staff must avoid making mistakes when he's at the plate, and try to force him to chase pitches. While he is a prolific power hitter, he does strike out a lot, so the team must try to make him chase fastballs that are high and out of the zone, and off-speed pitches out of the zone and in the dirt. He does have a good eye at the plate and may walk a few times, but that is an acceptable outcome for Mets pitchers, as a free pass to first base is a lot less harmful than a blast into the bleachers.
One pitcher who is likely to see a heavy dosage of Schwarber in this series is Chasen Shreve. Shreve is the top left-handed pitcher in the Mets bullpen, and thus should see action against Schwarber multiple times in the series. The Mets will be relying on Shreve to shut down Schwarber, or limit the damage, when he's called upon in high leverage situations late in games against the Phillies this weekend.
While the Phillies have an extremely potent lineup, stopping Kyle Schwarber will be the top priority for the Mets pitching staff this weekend. Chances are if they are to hold him in check, the Mets should be able to at least split the series against Philadelphia.