The Philadelphia Phillies host the defending National League champion New York Mets to begin the week.
Coming into this series at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies (6-7) and Mets (6-6) have found themselves falling behind the first place Washington Nationals (9-2) in the NL East Division standings.
The division rivals faced one another last weekend in the Big Apple, with the Phillies taking two of the three games after the Mets had won the opener at Citi Field.
The two losses against the Phils last weekend started the Mets off on a four-game losing skid. However, the defending Nationa League champions have rebounded to win three of their last four games.
Manager Terry Collins‘ offensive lineup has been led thus far by four players. Center fielder Yoenis Cespedes is one of those, of course. The native of Cuba has a .910 OPS, with three homers and eight RBI thus far.
23-year old left fielder Michael Conforto, who was our TBOH “Phillies Opposition Roadblock” player in the previous series between the two teams, is hitting .313 thus far with five doubles, a home run, and six RBI.
The NL champs have an entirely new middle infield this season, and both are performing well to this point. Tied with Cespedes for the club lead in homers and RBI is veteran 2nd baseman Neil Walker, who came in a December 2015 trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates, for whom he had played seven seasons.
The shortstop, Asdrubal Cabrera, is in his 10th big league season. He played most of the first eight seasons with the Cleveland Indians, and came to New York as a free agent just two days after the Walker trade went down. Cabrera is hitting .308, and is tied with Cespedes for the club lead with 12 hits.
Veteran 3rd baseman David Wright remains a key cog in the Mets lineup. However, the 13-year veteran has not yet produced anything on the season: no homers, no RBI after 42 plate appearances.
New York is extremely dependent on their starting eight players. The club’s bench has produced little of note, and has no real power threat. When healthy, as they have been so far this year, the Mets lineup can contend. But this is a team that rides it’s pitching staff.
At the end of games, closer Jeurys Familia is not quite a shutdown guy, but he is usually effective. This season the 26-year old righty has allowed eight hits and walked three over six innings.
As a group, the bullpen is talented, but has often failed in the first two weeks for New York. That pen includes former Phillies’ lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo, who is now 30 years old. Bastardo has allowed five hits in 4.2 innings, and is one of two left-handers, along with Jerry Blevins.
MONDAY: Noah Syndergaard (1-0, 0.69 ERA) vs Jerad Eickhoff (1-1, 1.50 ERA): the 23-year old nicknamed “Thor” may be the best young pitcher in baseball today. He has allowed just 10 hits over his first 13 innings, and has an other-worldly 21/2 K:BB ratio. He finished 4th in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2015 after going 9-7 with a 3.24 ERA and a 166/31 K:BB ratio, allowing 126 hits over 150 innings. He features a mid-90’s fastball that he can dial into the upper-90’s whenever he likes. He carries that heat all the way through the majority of his starts. He also utilizes tremendous changeup to keep hitters off balance. Syndergaard has a curve that is a devastating 3rd weapon when on, but if it is off that pitch can be a weakness. Command, control, power, deception. He is the full package. Oh, and if you like long hair on guys, he has great hair too.
TUESDAY: Logan Verrett (0-0, 1.29 ERA) vs Vincent Velasquez (2-0, 0.00): the Mets were supposed to depend on their starting pitching, so you would think that with Zack Wheeler out due to injury and Jacob deGrom forced to the sidelines as his newborn son battles health issues, the club would be in some trouble. In steps Verrett to help save the day. The 26-year old has allowed just four hits in seven innings, and was outstanding in making his first start of the season against the Miami Marlins last week. In that outing, the right-hander allowed three hits over six innings, striking out six Fish batters. He commands his average fastball well, throwing both a four and two-seam variety. He supplements those with two strong breaking pitches, a slider and a curve, both of which can be plus offerings. He mixes them well, and when on he really keeps hitters guessing.
WEDNESDAY: Bartolo Colon (1-1, 2.13 ERA) vs Jeremy Hellickson (1-1, 4.30 ERA): the current grand old man of Major League Baseball, Colon will turn 43 years of age next month. And yet, he just keeps on ticking, coming off his third straight 190+ innings season, a mark that he has reached 10 times in 18 full seasons. While he has allowed 14 hits over his first 12.2 innings thus far this season, he also has a tremendous 13/1 K:BB ratio. A large human being, Colon is a tremendous athlete despite his age and physical build. He fields his position with the best of them, has a strong pickoff move, and can even swing the bat. He relies almost exclusively on his fastball, throwing the pitch some 90% of the time. Once overpowering, it now comes in at around the 90 mph mark. But he spots and moves it well, and seems to break bats with regularity.
KEYS TO PHILLIES VICTORY
WIN FINAL TWO GAMES: nothing against Eickhoff, who is likely to pitch well enough to keep the Phillies in the first game of this series. But if form holds true, the Phillies offense is going to get overwhelmed by Syndergaard. The only chance that I see them having in that opener is for Eickhoff to keep it even somehow, Syndergaard to get pulled late, and the Phillies win it off the New York bullpen. While Verrett and Colon are now pushovers, they are nothing like the challenge that Thor brings. Particularly with Velasquez going on Tuesday, the Phils should be favored. It may be up to Hellickson to battle past Bartolo in the finale to take the series. And while we’re talking about this pitching, wouldn’t it have been fascinating to have gotten to watch Velasquez battle Syndergaard head-to-head? That day is coming…
ANYBODY HITS…WHOO HOO!: the Phillies offense is one of the worst in the game, and manager Pete Mackanin has been talking alot about change of late. He has already tried Darin Ruf in left field to get more offense into the attack, though it hasn’t really worked, since Ruf himself is limited, and nearly neutralized by righties. Going up against three right-handers for New York, we again find Ryan Howard as a key hitter for the Phillies. The Big Piece simply must produce for the team to win this series.
|Monday, April 18th||vs. New York Mets||7:05 PM||TV – TCN||Radio – 94 WIP|
|Tuesday, April 19th||vs. New York Mets||7:05 PM||TV – CSN||Radio – 94 WIP|
|Wednesday, April 20th||vs. New York Mets||7:05 PM||TV – TCN||Radio – 94 WIP|
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE for Citizens Bank Park in South Philly
Sunny, with a high near 78. North wind 5 to 7 mph.
Mostly clear, with a low around 55. West wind around 6 mph.
Mostly sunny, with a high near 72. Northwest wind 9 to 15 mph.
Clear, with a low around 46.
Sunny, with a high near 67.
Mostly clear, with a low around 46.
INJURIES / DISABLED LIST
New York Mets
|4/2||Aaron Altherr, LF||Torn tendon in left wrist (on 60-day DL)|
|4/2||Matt Harrison, P||Lower back inflammation (on 60-day DL)|
|4/2||Mario Hollands, P||Recovery from left elbow surgery (on 60-day DL)|
|3/25||Cody Asche, LF||Strained right oblique (on 15-day DL)|
|3/25||Michael Mariot, P||Right ankle sprain (on 15-day DL)|