The Phillies run of success started cracking last season, and although they hastily threw up some spackling, more cracks have started to appear. This week it’s the Mets turn to start poking those cracks to see if they can make the whole building fall down.
Roy Halladay pitches in the first game, and he’s perhaps the biggest crack of all. He didn’t fare so well in his first start, giving up 5 runs over 3.1 IP, and had a sub-par 2012 too. His velocity is down, which could be a red flag. It’d be nice to see the Mets get to him tonight, symbolically getting the better of a pitcher they’d historically had trouble with. It’d also deny him his 200th win, which would be fun.
The Phillies are an older team, and they don’t appear to have a ton of depth to cover fatigue and injury. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are healthy to start the season, although Howard is off to a slow start, but Utley hasn’t made it through a full season since 2009.
The Phillies are likely on their way down, and the Mets should be looking to climb past them on the road to continued success. That process starts tonight.
David Wright was hitting for three and when he broke his finger it has devastating effects on the Mets lineup. That’s not to say they can’t win without him, but at the time of the injury he was practically carrying the team and no one else has managed to pick them back up yet.
Regardless of if Wright is back Friday, next Friday, or after a DL stint is irrelevant. The Mets need to make adjustments and this 50 hour window between games is the perfect opportunity to do it. Assess the best way to set up the lineup, have guys refocus on the game plan, do their infield drills, and put extra work in scouting the Phillies pitchers. Those two losses should keep the Mets from getting complacent under a “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. It’s broke, so fix it.
Obviously Ike Davis and Lucas Duda need to hit more. Jason Bay does too, as he represents basically all of the right-handed power in the lineup if Scott Hairston isn’t starting, but if Bay can simply manage to not double up on career-worst years I’ll be happy. I’ve never really been a big believer in the idea that lefties can’t hit lefties, attributing it more to a small sample size coupled with the inability for players to get enough reps against them. The Mets lineup is extremely left-handed, so they really need to start hitting to avoid being exploited by LOOGYs. Maybe the massive amount of lefties the Mets will see, both in Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, and in the relievers teams bring in face the Mets lefty sluggers, will give Duda and Davis, as well as Daniel Murphy, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Josh Thole, the reps against them that they need to get comfortable with release points and different breaks. Certainly if they could start demonstrating that they can hit lefties, it will keep Terry Collins from putting lesser players from the bench in key spots.
4-2 is still a good start. The Mets now need to do the work required to win on this road trip, and continue the good start. Cliff Lee will be tough, but the Mets can hit Vance Worley and they own Cole Hamels. Then they get three against the Braves again, who they already swept. David Wright back would have a huge impact on run-scoring, but they have to find ways to win these games with or without him.
Cole Hamels is 2-8 in 13 starts against the Mets, with a 1.513 WHIP. David Wright has a .962 OPS against him in 37PA. In 33 PA, Beltran has an OPS of 1.041 with three home runs.
The Mets get the end of the Phillies rotation, so Wednesday Mike Pelfrey pitches against Joe Blanton.
Shane Victorino hurt his calf on Saturday. He still came in and played a couple of innings at the end of Sunday’s game, but it’s possible his range will be a tick off in center, or that he’ll be a step slower on the bases.
Jose Reyes has good career numbers at Citizen’s Bank Park, and against the Phillies.
Chase Utley hasn’t had a magical recovery and second base is still manned mainly by Wilson Valdez.
In 16 innings, Francisco Rodriguez has yet to allow a run against the Phillies.
Carlos Beltran, in 42 AB, has an OPS of .857 against Roy Halladay. Reyes, in 20 PA, has an OPS of 1.239.
This series against the Phillies, while not that huge a deal in the overall season, is a pretty big deal for the Mets. The Mets have been disrespected and dismissed by much of baseball, and yet they stand in first place.
Most feel the Phillies are the “better team”, but this series is the first opportunity to show that the Mets can hang with them. It goes a long way towards instilling confidence in the players if they could go out and beat Philly this weekend. It will remind Philly, even though it’s still early, that the Mets are not just going to go quietly into the night this year. It will remind fans that the Mets are a serious fun team to watch and will be in the conversation all season. It will remind the national media, as the weekend games are both on National, or semi-National, tv, that there is another team in New York that’s going to be talked about this summer.
Win these games and fans will start coming back to Citi Field. People will feel good about the team. It would go a long way towards erasing some of the feeling of 2009 and hard luck. It will extinguish any real assertion that the Mets are at best a wild card team. The Phillies are not a powerhouse. Their pitching is suspect outside of Halladay and one pitcher does not make a team. Playing this team hard and gaining a little swagger about themselves is the first step towards what can be a championship season for the New York Mets.
Three months ago you would’ve pointed to this weekend as one of the biggest of the season. Four games against the Phillies was likely going to set the tone for September and who was chasing who. On a New York front, the Yankees are also playing the Red Sox so it would’ve been baseball mania in New York.
Now the Yankees have grabbed a big lead, the Mets are injured, and people are talking about the football Giants. The biggest stories for the Mets is the ’69 reunion Saturday night and Pedro’s return to the Mets home field on Sunday. There is little or no juice for the series, and I’m sure some Phillies fans will come up the coast, but it just doesn’t matter.
I do think both Pelfrey and Perez will have good games. I think Parnell might have a nice bounceback start as well. I also just noticed that the Mets rotation features three Ps. Interesting? Not really.
It really is time to start parting ways with some of the useless veterans, like cutting Livan Hernandez yesterday. Sheffield can go too, Cory Sullivan has more extra base hits than him since being called up, and at least Sullivan can play defense.
Lets get Evans up here and him, Sullivan, Reed, and Pagan can all compete for possible roles on the team next year.