Cardinals: 25-19 (5/24-5/27)
This series was supposed to be a grudge match. The last time the Phillies saw the Cardinals they were celebrating all over our field with Ryan Howard lying broken and defeated at home plate. It’s a long season, but the series won’t be the revenge many Phillies circled circled on their calendars in spring training. Fast Forward to present day, and the Phillies are just focusing on treading water. Anyone who is still making the argument that the team’s struggles are all due to injuries need only look to the Cardinals to comprehend the folly of that broken record. The Red Birds lost Albert Pujols in the off-season, and have watched Chris Carpenter, Lance Berkman, and Allen Craig spend nearly the entire season on the DL. Do they complain? No. They simply plug in the next player, and don’t skip a beat. The Cardinals are blessed with something the Phillies are sorely lacking; organizational depth. You may be find yourself saying “who?” a few times during the series, but don’t be fooled by the lack of name recognition, this team is here for the long haul.
Player to Watch: C Yadier Molina
One player who is all too familiar to Phillies fans and the rest of baseball is catcher Yadier Molina. Molina is arguably the best back stop in baseball (No i didn’t forget about Chooch) and continues to remind us why. Molina throws out would-be-base-stealers well above the league average, and is a vacuum behind the dish. Molina is having another strong season at the plate as well, hitting around .300 and helping himself to all the RBIs left for him in the middle of the order. Its easy to hate Molina when he plays against the Phillies, but it’s only because he is just that good.
Most Hated Cardinal: SP Kyle Lohse
File Kyle Lohse under the “Rod Barajas” category of hated players. Lohse had a brief, and forgettable, stint with the Phillies in 2007, brought in to shore up the rotation as the team went on their late season surge. Lohse’s signature moment with the team came in the Division Series against the Rockies as he gave up a Grand Slam pitching in relief, all but assuring the Rocks the victory, as they made quick work of the young Phillies squad. No one was sad to see Lohse depart, but ever since he left he has stymied the Phillies (the lone exception coming in last years playoff). He is off to another dumbfounded hot start, which is bad news for the Phils.
Fansided Perspective: Red Bird Rants editor Justin McClary was kind enough to share the deep seeded emotions of fans from Pujols departure.
"I left Baseball Heaven for this?" Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE
1) Are Cardinals fans enjoying watching Pujols struggle in LA, or are you all not as vengeful as we Philadelphians?
I can’t speak for all Cardinals fans, but personally I’ve been more interested in the LA fans’ reactions to Pujols. There was a short period right after the signing that I was angry at Pujols for walking away, but at the end of the day it is his decision to make, so it is on the fans to move on now. I started out just as confused as everyone else by his slow start, so I was watching every at bat to see what the deal was. I wouldn’t say I was happy that Pujols was suffering, but I definitely wasn’t rooting for him. I found it interesting when he started to get loudly booed and even had a few “overrated” chants thrown his way by his own home fans. That never would have happened in St Louis, even if he had the same start to the season.
2) The Red Birds have been bit by the injury bug just as much as the Phillies, but the team hasn’t missed a beat. What’s your secret?
I think the big reason the Cardinals have stayed in the hunt even as they have so many high profile injuries is the way the farm system is set up right now. We have a couple of true top prospects like Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, and Oscar Taveras, but what the Cardinals have is a huge amount of depth guys. A guy like Matt Carpenter may not be a starter for most teams, but he’s great in a fill-in role. The Phillies are in a similar situation, as players like Freddy Galvis and John Mayberry Jr may not be the ideal starters, but in part-time roles they are great role players.
3) Both clubs look very different than the teams that met in the playoffs last year. Being completely objective (if possible), who has a better chance to make it back?
I think the Cardinals have the better shot. The farm system depth will allow new manager Mike Matheny to keep the big guns fresh by giving them plenty of rest. The issue I’ve seen with the Phillies is that fearsome offensive core they’ve had in place is getting up there in age. Even when everyone comes back, it’s not out of the question to wonder if Utley, Rollins, Victorino, Howard, and Polanco are reaching the end of the line. The pitching staff is obviously a force, but the bullpen isn’t exactly shut down. I think both teams have big challenges ahead of them, but the Cardinals look built for a deeper run.
New York Mets: 24-20 (5/28-5/30)
The Mets just don’t seem to take the hint that they
are the ones who are supposed to be floundering in last place. It has taken a while, but even their own fans are coming to the realization that this Mets team is kind of fun
. The Mets are in a similar boat as the 76ers. No one expected anything from them, so all of their success is pressure free. And, in case you haven’t noticed David Wright is having a monster season. His average just slipped below .400 for the first time since the opening week of the season, and seems to be hitting everything thrown his way. His power numbers are still down, but some of that can be contributed to the deep power alleys at Citi field. He is a heck of a player, but he has to be motivated by his impending free agency. Both Wright and Hamels are playing like guys who see dollar signs ahead of them, which is bad news for both the Mets and Phils.
When We Last Met:
"Wright is smiling because h is about to get PAID" Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
The Mets brought their brooms to Philly in the teams last series. To say they wiped the floor with the team is an understatement, but the worst part was the way beat up on the Phillies. The Mets averaged over 7 runs per game in the series, and even gave Jonathan Papelbon his only real blemish of the season. Their starting pitching never overwhelmed the Phillies, but both Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey didn’t pitch, who have given the team fits. If there was one positive to take away it was…nothing. The best thing the team can do is start fresh, and replicate their bludgeoning of the Mets c.2011.
1) Charlie tells his pitchers to pitch around Wright, but to no avail as he continues to mash Phillies pitching.
2) The Phillies finally win a series against the Mets, taking 2 of 3 lead by none other than…Freddy Galvis (why not?)
3) Against my better judgement i give Shake Shack another try, only to be reminded that it is just an expensive 1/4 pounder.
Matt Musico of Rising Apple
graciously held back from rubbing in the current standings while answering my questions.
1) It’s May 24th and the Mets are still ahead of the Phillies! Sorry, that’s not really a question, what’s the deal?
I know right, it’s crazy! One of those weird feelings where I think I’m in a dream, but then pinch myself and realize it’s real life. They have been holding on for dear life lately to stay in front of Philly for over the last week or so, but I think it’s just the attitude of this team that is willing them to win some games. The bullpen has been terrible and the offense has been spotty without it being at full strength in the absence of Tejada, Thole, and Bay (kind of). To be honest, I’m not sure what the deal is, but it’s one of those situations where I’m not going to question it and ride the wave as long as possible.
2) 6 games is a small sample size but the Mets have owned the Phillies (5-1) so far this year. What is the biggest different between the Mets 2012 and Mets 2011.
I think the biggest different is New York’s focus on seeing more pitching and being more patient within each at-bat. The starting rotation in Philly is one of the best in the league, and the Mets have to try and find any way possible to get to the likes of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, or Cole Hamels. In their last series, Lee pitched very well, but New York was able to get to him a little bit at the end of his outing because they forced him to throw pitches. They say patience is a virtue, and it’s paying off for New York, specifically against the Phillies.
3) Citifield was host to a group of Orthodox jews protesting the Internet last week. Do the Mets condone this archaic methodology, or are they just so strapped for cash they will let anybody rent out the ballpark?
Well, the Wilpons hear what these Orthodox Jews are saying; the internet is being used for some things that just don’t make sense. So, they felt it was best to allow them to gather for their rally in one of the newest stadium venues in professional sports, where you can get a WiFi connection anywhere you go. Seriously though, only the Big Man upstairs knows why this was hosted at Citi Field. I mean, we’re trying to pony up some money to throw at David Wright to stay in New York for the long-term…how else are you supposed to get an extension offer ready??