The Philadelphia Phillies are returning home after a successful West Coast road trip where they won two of three series and finished 6-4, highlighted by a series win over the highly acclaimed Los Angeles Dodgers. At one game over .500 and half-a-game away from a tie in the Wild Card race in this very young season, the Phillies look to keep the momentum going as they play host to the New York Mets for a brief two-game stretch.
What’s the deal with the Mets?
At 14-11, the Mets are sitting atop of the National League Wild Card standings. Although we are still ducking the chilly winds that April brings us, the Mets have thrived off efficient and stunning performances from Daniel Murphy, Juan Lagares, Eric Young Jr., Jenrry Mejia, Dillon Gee and Jonathan Niese.
Third baseman David Wright is off to a slower start than usual, hitting just .275 with one home run. He does lay claim to a team-leading 15 RBI though. In the first game of the series, Wright will face off against Phillies lefty Cole Hamels. Wright has only seen two other pitchers — Tim Hudson and Ricky Nolasco — more than he has seen Hamels. In 68 plate appearances versus Hamels, Wright owns a .349 AVG to go along with 5 HR and 15 RBI. If any game could lead to a jailbreak for Captain America’s early season woes, it will be Tuesday’s in Citizen’s Bank Park.
With a 3.46 cumulative ERA, the Mets starting rotation is ranked ninth among all Major League Baseball clubs. Kudos is due to the early season boon from the like’s of Zack Wheeler, Mejia, Niese and Gee. Mejia is the arm to watch though. Coming off of multiple setbacks including Tommy John surgery over the last few years, the 24-year-old has finally found his groove at the MLB level. He is sitting at 3-0 with a 3.49 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 28.1 innings pitched. Luckily, the Phillies will avoid Mejia. In this two game stretch, the Phillies are projected to square off against Niese and veteran Bartolo Colon.
As for the Mets bullpen, it’s shakier than most. While not as pitiful as the Phillies’ relievers, the Mets still reside in the bottom third of MLB with a 4.08 ERA.
Phillies vs. Mets: The Rivalry
The Phillies-Mets rivalry is one that has heated up in the last decade or so. Led by Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes and Wright, the Mets entered the final weeks of the 2007 season with a seven game lead in the NL East over the Phillies. With just 17 games remaining, the Mets would finish 5-12 as the Phillies would finish 13-4 and win the division on the last day of the season. For the Phillies, it was their first ever division crown. For the Mets, it would signal the beginning of a disastrous stretch leading into where they are today: a rebuilding franchise that hasn’t won 90-plus games since 2006.
Mets player who isn’t completely horrible
David Wright could potentially land in the Baseball Hall of Fame. It just depends on how well he plays out his thirties. While much can be raved about the Mets third baseman, one player for the NL’s New York franchise who often goes overlooked is second baseman Daniel Murphy. Currently squatting with a .289 AVG, 14 runs scored and 8 RBI, Murphy is the epitome of what any franchise would want out of a middle infielder. Don’t worry about the lack of dingers. Murphy has hit double-digit HR just twice in his career.
Mets player who is horrible
The Mets ponied up $7.25 million for center fielder Chris Young. While the deal is only for one year, the Mets are currently paying for a guy who has just seven hits thus far. Of those seven hits, two have flown over the fence. With a .194 AVG and .237 OBP, Young is putting himself high on the list of overpaid players in 2014. Then again, this could be a blunder on the Mets behalf. Young’s numbers have been in a rapid descent since he flamed out with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010.
The Phillies have won two consecutive series, all on the road. Fans in Philadelphia will get to see Hamels pitch at the Bank for the first time this season. With renewed life in the plate approach of Ryan Howard, the big lefty could end up being an x-factor in this series. Howard has begun the season with better production against lefties. If he can sustain those kind of splits, Howard should do fine versus Mets lefty Niese and righty Colon.
Hamels needs to build off of his strong outing last week in Los Angeles. Kyle Kendrick, the starter for the second game of this brief series, must keep the ball in the park. On the year, Kendrick has allowed 12 earned runs in five starts to coincide with the five HR he has allowed as well.
The Mets have won six of eight, so it’s not like they’ll be an easy out. The Phillies need to make a statement, one that expresses that they are not teasing the fan base with their play thus far. The type of statement they need to make is by taking both games of this short series. With a day off Thursday, a two-game sweep would send the Phillies into their weekend series with the Washington Nationals on a high note. While early in the season, the NL East is still up for grabs and the Phillies have been playing like they want to compete for awhile.