The opening series versus the ‘Stros couldn’t have gone much better for the Phillies. The bats carried the momentum from their rally on opening day and ended the series scoring 21 runs on 37 hits! They started the season with a 3 game sweep for the first time since 1899 and its the first time they started 3-0 at home since 1970. Now they will try to continue that momentum and strong play as they welcome the Mets to the Bank for a 3 game series that starts tomorrow night. The previously heated rivalry has lost some of its steam the past few seasons due the poor play of the Mets but there is still a lot of bad blood between the two sides.
While the Phillies were sweeping Houston, the Mets were able to rebound and take two of three against a good Marlins team. As much as I love seeing the epic failures of the New York “Mess”, the rivalry just isn’t the same as it was in 07 and 08. It’s just so much sweeter seeing them choke and collapse in September, rather than quietly fade out of the race in June. The Phillies catch a slight break in the pitching matchups. They will not have to face Mets knuckleballer R.A Dickey who pitched well against them last season. In addition to keeping them quiet for the game he pitched, he seemed to mess with their timing and put them in a hitting slump for a few games.
Tuesday April 5 7:05: Cole Hamels vs. Chris Young
In addition to seeing Ace Number 4 take the hill, Phillies fans will receive a opening week t-shirt on their way in. Cole Hamels had a rough end to his spring and has been a slow starter throughout his career. For some reason Hamels has always had trouble pitching in games during the day. This might explain his trouble he had during the spring. His ERA during night games is 3.20 while its 4.27 when he pitches in day games. He is 7-8 with a 4.11 ERA in 20 career April starts. Hamels has also had limited success against the Mets, he is just 2-8 with a 3.83 in 13 career starts.
Hamels will be opposed by former Padre’s right hander Chris Young. He is 6-10 and looks like a right handed Randy Johnson on the mound. He had some promising years with San Diego but has been slowed by injuries the last few seasons. Young has not had a lot of success against the Phillies; he is 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 5 career starts and is 1-1 with a 6.60 ERA at the Bank. According to fangraphs.com, Young’s fastball in 2004 averaged a speed of 91.2; it had dropped to just 84.7 last season. He pitched very well during the spring and cemented his spot in the rotation.
Wednesday April 6 7:05: Joe Blanton vs. Mike Pelfrey
Joe Blanton will get his first chance to prove he belongs in the same sentence as the other 4 aces. At first glance this looks like the pitching matchup favors the Mets, it is the Phillies 5th starter versus the Mets #1 and Opening day Starter (Many would argue that Dickey is there best pitcher right now). Blanton has had a lot of success against the Mets throughout his career. He is 3-1 with a 2.64 ERA in 7 starts against the Metropolitans.
Pelfrey was a 1st round pick by the Mets and has had a mediocre career. He has been lifted up most Mets fans but the reality is he has slightly worse career numbers than Blanton. His 2011 didn’t get off to good start on Friday against the Marlins. He lasted just 4.1 innings while giving up 5 runs. Pitching the NL East his whole career, he has made 13 starts against the Phillies and has had limited success. Despite a 6-4 record, he has 4.52 ERA. His numbers at the Bank are even worse, in 5 starts he has an ERA of 8.17.
Thursday April 6 3:05: Roy Halladay vs. Jonathan Niese
Doc “struggled” in his start on Opening Day only going 6 innings and he would have gotten the loss if it wasn’t for the 9th inning comeback. He has pitched well against the Mets during his career but they aren’t Doc like numbers. In 8 starts he is 6-2 with a massive 3.86 ERA. Last season with the Phillies he won all 4 starts against the Mets going 4-0 with a 2.56 ERA. After the game on opening day, Doc seemed a little annoyed with the way he pitched, so I would expect a shutdown game from him on Thursday. Niese has not had a great career so far, but he has been very good in his few starts against the Phillies. He is just another lefty that the Phillies haven’t seemed able to figure out. In 3 starts versus the Phillies he is 1-1 with a 2.14 ERA. Don’t be surprised if Charlie decides to give Raul day off, it’s a day game after a night game and Niese has handled the Phillies lefties in the past. It would be a good opportunity to give Friday’s hero John Mayberry a chance for more at bats.
It’s no surprise that the pitching matchups seem to favor the Phillies. They will go into just about every game they play this season with the better pitching matchup. I believe the key to the series for the Phillies is to keep Jose Reyes off the base paths. He can be a huge pest if he is able to get on base and does a great job disrupting the pitchers rhythm. Jimmy Rollins sparked the rivalry back in 2007 when he proclaimed the Phillies as the “team to beat” and his play will have a major impact on the series outcome. If he is able to get on base, his threat of stealing a bag should force pitchers to throw more fastballs to Howard and we all know Howard can crush the fastball.
The Mets have been a strong team in April and it seems like they will continue the trend this season. I don’t think they are good enough to hang with the Phillies in the long run but they always seem to give them a tough series. I would love to predict another sweep for the Phillies but it’s not that realistic. They are the superior team but sweeping a team is never an easy task. I would expect the Phillies to take 2 of the 3 games and then head to Atlanta with the division lead. If they are able to take the first two games, expect Doc to smell blood and sweep the Mets out of the bank.