Series Preview: Mets @ Phillies
The quickest homestand ever is now officially over. Taking 2 out of 3 from Arizona should be a nice boost in confidence for the Mets as they head into unfriendly territory at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
The Phillies are coming off a 9-3 win in prime time over the Nationals, and are looking to shed themselves of this last place skin they currently wear.
After this series, the Mets only have one trip to Philadelphia remaining on the schedule, August 28-30
The Mets got big time performances from Santana and Dickey this weekend, and now they look to the back end of the rotation to keep them alive against 2 of the best pitchers in baseball.
It seems that every time the Mets have a moment that seems like it could send their year into a tailspin, they bounce back quickly. Losing Tejada to the DL (not official yet), could be seen as a crushing blow to this team.
Monday at 7:05 PM: Jon Niese vs. Roy Halladay
The Mets lucked out in the previous series by avoiding Halladay. No such luck here tonight. Halladay is coming off of one of his worst outings ever. You know he’s going to be ready to go tonight to erase the sour taste in his mouth.
Niese has had some success against the Phillies, and I’m beginning to notice that he is at his best when he’s up against tougher competition. He’s 4-4 with a 3.58 ERA against the Phillies. Compared to Halladay’s 9-2 with a 2.88 ERA against the Mets, Niese’s numbers do not look as good.
Halladay has won his last eight starts versus the Mets dating back to June 24, 2006. That streak is the longest vs. the Mets since 1966, when Larry Jackson saw his 13-start win streak snapped and Bob Gibson and Juan Marichal each had separate nine-start win streaks end that year.
However, Niese is still facing a watered down version of this Phillies team. No Howard, No Utley, No problem? Not so fast.
Niese’s troubles come at the hands of Polanco and Ruiz. They both are hitting over .350 against Niese, and Chooch Ruiz is on fire after driving in 7 runs earlier this week.
Hunter Pence is a career .143 against Niese, but if you watched last night’s game, you probably know he hit 2 HR.
For the Mets, Thole and Hairston provide the most favorable matchups for the Mets. Thole is a career .438 hitter in 16 chances against Halladay, and Hairston is a .333 hitter in 7 chances.
Halladay absolutely dominates the heart of the Mets order. Ike is a .211 hitter, Murphy .167, Wright .143 and Duda .000. If the Mets have any shot of beating Halladay, somebody in that group needs a big game.
Tuesday at 7:05 PM: Miguel Batista vs. Joe Blanton
There isn’t a Mets fan alive who is confident in Batista here. If he struggles here, the Mets are going to have to figure something out for his next scheduled start. Is the answer going after somebody like Oswalt? Is there anybody dealing a #4/#5 starter right now?
Blanton is off to a 3-3 record, but is coming off of a complete game shutout against Atlanta. Blanton has always been able to hide out behind Halladay/Lee/Hamels, which makes him a dangerous #4.
Blanton comes into this game having a huge advantage over his counterpart. Something Mets fans should be excited about is that Ike Davis is a career .455 hitter in 12 chances against Blanton.
Wednesday at 7:05 PM: Dillon Gee vs. Cliff Lee
Lee is coming back from an oblique strain. His last outing was a 10 inning shutout. You read that correctly. 10 innings pitched, 0 earned runs and he got a no decision in the 1-0 loss to San Francisco. Then he went on the DL a few days later.
The Mets tagged Lee for 4 runs in 7 innings of work, but that was on Friday the 13th so that’s a logical explanation right?
Lee is 0-1 in 3 starts and probably should be 2-1. Meanwhile Dillon Gee is coming off a tough luck no decision in which he gave up 2 runs in 6 innings of work.
Gee has an odd record against Philadelphia. He’s 2-1 with a 7.85 ERA. That August 22nd 3.2 innings of work and 8 earned runs is the culprit. Oh, and the April 29th, 2011 1.2 innings of work and 4 earned runs.
To Gee’s credit, he did figure them out last September. He had a decent start in his final outing against Philadelphia, but nothing to make you think he’s shaken off his past struggles.
When you look at the pitching matchups, you have to assume the Mets cannot fall behind in this series. The opposition has scored first in six of the last eight games. The Mets are 7-10 this year when the opposition scores first.
If the Mets can get out to an early lead, the bullpen will have to answer the call to keep this team alive.
The Mets improved to 11-3 in games decided by two or fewer runs with yesterday’s 3-1 victory. The Mets .786 winning percentage in such games is the best in the majors. Their 11 wins are tied with Washington (11-6) for the second most behind the Dodgers who are 12-6.
If they have opportunities against Halladay and Lee especially, they need to capitalize on them. The Mets are batting .254 (61-240) with RISP.
Despite their records, the Mets have to be seen as big underdogs in this series. With the injury to Tejada and the matchups going against them, it will be interesting to see how the team responds to adversity this week.
View From Their Window
I’m adding a new feature to these previews. I’ve partnered up with several other team fan sites to give you a sense of what they are thinking as the series begins. This week, I’d like to thank The Good Phight!
1) What is the general consensus regarding Jon Niese from a Phillies fan perspective?
Nice, effective lefty, not likely to win any Cy Young Awards, but might make an All-Star appearance or two. He usually seems to do well against the Phillies, too, which is not surprising given his southpaw status and pitch repertoire.
2) Cliff Lee makes his return from the DL this series. Any concerns for Phillies fans that he may not be ready?
Not really, the consensus seemed to be that the DL stint was mostly precautionary, and he’s thrown a few pain-free bullpen sessions during his layoff. Pretty sure he’s going to be good to go.
3) Who’s hot and who’s not for the Phils?
Carlos Ruiz has been on a nice tear, forcing his way into the middle of the lineup (not hard to do with the current roster). I’m hesitant to call one game a “breakout,” but watching Hunter Pence swat two home runs last night was very encouraging. And the duo of Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton has been surprisingly productive for the Phillies.
Roy Halladay has been difficult to get a read on this season. His velocity is down a tick, and he’s not getting as many strikeouts, which has been trouble for him, especially in his last start against the Braves. He left the team for a personal matter on Thursday, but has returned and seems ready to go. Until he dazzles me with another brilliant start, I’m going to be worried.
4) Does CBP still have juice in it when the Mets come to town, or have the Mets recent struggles cooled things down?
It’s definitely different, in part because Phillies fans are buying all the tickets. As a resident of northern New Jersey, it’s obvious that getting to Philadelphia for a game presents many fewer logistical problems than going to Queens for a game, depending on where you live. And with the cavernous, mostly-empty Veterans Stadium, it was only logical that the park filled with Mets fans. This also happened in the early days of Citizens Bank Park.
I’m quite certain that it’ll get “interesting” again when the Mets get themselves back into regular postseason contention.
5) If the Phils win the series, who is the player of the series? If the Phils lose the series, who’s to blame?
The bats need to step up, and missing R.A. Dickey will probably help quite a bit. They’re seeing the “softer” part of the Mets rotation by missing Dickey, which is nice, but this current Phillies team can make anyone look brilliant.
If Halladay and Cliff Lee pitch like they can, they can single-handedly win the series, and if Blanton can be like he was in his shutout of the Braves last week, that’s all they’ll need. The key with Lee seems to be attacking early in the at-bat, and with Halladay it has been grinding out long at-bats. It’ll be interesting to see if the Mets can adopt those approaches.
OVER/UNDER RUNS: (5-2 on the season) Nailed it this weekend. I had the under when it was 23 runs. Tonight’s number is very low, 6.5. With the Mets being big underdogs tonight, you have to assume the odds makers are thinking most of those runs will come against NY. I will set the over/under at 21.5, and go against my better judgment and choose the OVER.
METS POTS: David Wright loves CBP, so I’ve gotta take Wright.
KEEP YOUR EYES ON: The Phillies bullpen. They have allowed 42% of inherited runners to score. I’m not saying Papelbon is a guarantee, but if the ball goes from the starter to anybody but Papelbon, the Mets could gain an advantage.
I’LL BE DRINKING A: Crush. It’s a red wine blend from musician Dave Matthews’ vineyard. It’s quite tasty.
About the Author: Michael J. Branda
My time with MMO began in July of 2009 when I wrote a Fan Post defending Omar Minaya (before it was cool to do that.) I grew up a Mets fan with the mid 1980's teams. My favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, I like to think I meet in the middle. I believe thinking of new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the same way has not produced results. However, I think over-thinking certain situations can get you into trouble. I'm excited for the new regime, because I believe they have pieces in place to focus on several aspects of the Mets organization. I've waited this long for a World Series, waiting a few more years for another chance isn't going to kill me.
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