Tonight, the Phillies start a three-game series against the Mets at Citi Field, a three-game set that could start the team toward the path of becoming buyers or sellers.
Despite being ahead of the Mets in the standings by 4 1/2 games, the Mets actually have a much better run differential than the Phils this year (-27 to -45) and you could argue have the advantage in all three pitching match-ups in this series.
Kyle Kendrick will go up against Jeremy Hefner tonight, with Zack Wheeler against Cole Hamels on Saturday and All-Star Game starter Matt Harvey vs. Cliff Lee on Sunday. The Mets have the ERA advantage in all three matchups.
The Phils have hit Hefner well throughout his career. In five starts, Hefner is 2-2 against the Phils but with an unsightly 11.02 ERA. The Phils have to take tonight’s game. On Sunday, the Mets have the likely edge even with Cliff Lee going for the Phillies. It’s hard to envision the Phils doing much with Harvey.
That makes Saturday night’s Hamels-Wheeler match-up as the potential swing game. If the Phillies get the “good” Hamels, they could get out of New York with a series win. If not, things could get ugly for the Phils really fast.
So, as the two teams prepare to resume the 2013 season tonight in New York, we asked a few questions of William DeBoer, Staff Writer for The Rising Apple.
1. What is the current state of mind of the Mets fan?
Cautiously optimistic. There is a feeling that the team is finally turning a corner: Matt Harvey is an ace already, Zack Wheeler has made it to the big leagues, David Wright is his normal excellent self, and it looks like the Wilpons are finally out of the shadow of the Madoff scandal. We’ve grown weary from what will likely become five straight losing seasons, plus to epic collapses at your expense in 2007 and 2008. But New York fans as well as any know how to stick with their team through thick and thin, and we are anxious to see what the future holds for our Amazin’ Mets.
2. Management says they can increase payroll next year. So, how much does Marlon Byrd get. Five years, $100 million? More?
You’re asking this under the impression that Sandy Alderson is Omar Minaya. True, Marlon Byrd has been a pleasant surprise (15 HR, 71 RBI, .818 OPS), and Alderson got him for a bargain ($700,000), but Byrd turns 36 at the end of August, and he was certainly no Albert Pujols before his comeback this year. My guess is that if Byrd is still on the team past the trade deadline and Alderson wants him back, he would fetch a deal in the two-year, $4-8 million range.
3. Would you recognize Matt Harvey if he was standing right next to you?
I’d like to hope so, but Jimmy Fallon might have to dispatch him a couple more times to really hammer it home.
4. Jordanny Valdespin seems like kind of a punk. Will he ever play for the Mets again?
If this were April I’d say you’re still bitter from him homering off Jonathan Papelbon last year for his first big-league hit. But that was then, this is now, and I’d say your assessment is fair. Jordany Valdespin certainly is a punk. If he were living up to his own hype I’d say he’d be worth the headaches, but he’s only hit .188 this season and has faltered whenever given consistent playing time. Add to that his tirade against poor Terry Collins when he was demoted before the Break, and I’d say you’ll never see JV1 take the field in Flushing again.
5. Who will the Mets be selling at the trade deadline in two weeks?
I mentioned Marlon Byrd a while ago, but because of his age and low salary he might not warrant a strong enough offer. Lucas Duda is another name to watch for. He’s got some power but isn’t much of an outfielder. Earlier in the season when the Mets were playing musical chairs out there, Duda could count on playing time, but with Eric Young working out so well in left field, I don’t think there’s a spot left for Lucas. I’d expect Sandy to shop him around to AL teams that need a DH.
6. How would you describe the first half of the Mets season… predictably awful or more bad than you thought?
I’m more optimistic than the typical Mets fan, so I’ll point out that we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of a pennant-winning team that was doing worse than the current Mets are now. I think we all expected New York to struggle this year, but a 17-11 stretch going into the All-Star Break provided a month’s worth of thrills at least. We’ve got a lot of holes to fill, but our young talent is rising. If your team sells at the deadline and mine stays pat, we could sneak up and take third in the NL East, which would be a pleasant surprise after finishing 4th the last three years.