It was unfortunate that the New York Mets had to play one of the hottest teams in baseball, the Atlanta Braves this weekend. After dropping the first two games, the Mets were able to hand the Braves its first loss of the season behind a solid performance from Bartolo Colon.
The Mets return to Flushing with a 3-3 record to host the Philadelphia Phillies (3-3) in the home opener at Citi Field, where the team went 40-41 last season. The Phillies are coming in off a series victory over a talented Washington Nationals club at home. In the season series between these teams in 2014 the Mets won 13 of the 19 contests.
RHP Aaron Harang (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Jacob deGrom (0-1, 3.00 ERA)
I’ll give Harang credit that he has been able to stay in the league this long (14 years). The 36-year-old had a rough 2013 season posting a 5.76 ERA in 22 starts for the Seattle Mariners before being designated for assignment and picked up by the Mets. Harang allowed nine earned runs in 22 innings in his short stint with the Mets.
In his 2015 debut Harang held the Red Sox at bay for six innings and only surrendered two hits. Harang is a flyball pitcher, so pitching in Citi Field could play to his benefit.
As for deGrom, the reigning National League Rookie of the Year showed that he hasn’t skipped a beat by going six innings, allowing two runs and striking out six in first start of the season. He did an excellent job of using his fastball as a put away pitch in his 2015 debut, recording five of his strikeouts with it. Phillies hitters should struggle with that pitch, especially if he can locate it in the top of the strike zone or even above it.
RHP David Buchanan (0-1, 18.00 ERA) vs. RHP Matt Harvey (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
Much like deGrom, Buchanan was a rookie that was able to have a reasonable amount of success in the NL East last season. Buchanan went 6-8 with a 3.75 ERA in the 20 starts he made in 2014. The Mets should have no problem putting the ball in play against him as he only struck out 71 batters in 117 innings pitched last season. Buchanan allowed six runs in three innings against the Red Sox in his first start last week.
Harvey definitely lived up to the expectations of his much-anticipated 2015 debut. The young phenom struck out nine Nationals hitters, including Bryce Harper three times, in his six innings of shutout ball. Harvey has faced the Phillies five times in his career and is 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA and has only allowed 15 hits in 38 innings. This could be fun one to watch for Mets fans.
RHP Jerome Williams (0-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. LHP Jonathon Niese (0-0, 1.80 ERA)
Williams pitched for the Astros, Rangers, and finally found a home with the Phillies in 2014 before adding to the list of seven teams he has played for in his 10-year career. Williams pitched extremely well in the nine starts he made in Philly last season, posting a 2.83 ERA in 57 innings pitched. He was able to continue that positive trend into his first start of this year, where he held the Nationals to one run over six innings.
Niese made his 2015 debut against the Braves, throwing five innings of one-run ball in a 5-3 loss. The left-hander has pitched more innings against the Phillies (123), than against any other team in the league. Niese has enjoyed reasonable success against them, going 8-6 with a 3.00 ERA in 19 starts. Niese will need to be tough against this left-handed heavy Phillies lineup that has once-feared hitters like Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.
Players to watch
Philadelphia second baseman Freddy Galvis is off to a solid start so far this season, hitting .318 in first 22 at-bats. Ben Revere may not be off to a hot start at the plate (.167 avg.), but don’t expect him to stay cold for long as he hit over .300 in each of his last two seasons. Revere is also a threat on the base paths that Travis D’Arnaud will need to worry about.
Philadelphia has had a lockdown bullpen so far this season, allowing six runs, five of which have been allowed by Jacob Diekman. Middle-relievers like Ken Giles and Leury Garcia will be very valuable in this series if the Phillies back-end starters can’t go deep into games.
Lucas Duda is swinging a hot bat for the Mets through the first six games, with eight hits (seven singles) in his first 21 at-bats. Look for Duda to capitalize against this weaker pitching and start to add up some extra-base hits. On the other side of the spectrum, Curtis Granderson has a whopping one hit in his first six games played — though he’s leading the NL in walks with 7. Facing a flyball right-hander like Harang could help Granderson bust out of his early-season slump.
Jeurys Familia will be the closer for the foreseeable future after Jenrry Mejia was suspended 80 games for testing positive for the new MLB performance-enhancer of choice, Stanozolol. Familia notched his first save as the team’s closer in the victory over the Braves on Sunday.
This is no longer the Phillies team that was a perennial contender in the National League. Jimmy Rollins is now a Dodger, Utley is 36 and Howard has almost played out that atrocious $125 million contract. While the Mets are (kind of) trending upward, the Phillies are in a slow, painful decline. It’s not ridiculous to say that this team could be very similar to 2011-2014 Astros over the next four years.