Preview: Mets vs. Phillies

If there was ever a time for the Mets to shake this win-one, lose-one thing, it’s now.

The Mets invade Philadelphia phor a a three-game phor-game series with the phirst-place Phillies. The series could mean nothing. Or, it could mean everything.

As it stands now, the Mets have a 42-43 record, four and a half games out of first. The fightin’ Phils are 47-39, and have the 44-41 Florida Fish as a buffer zone between themselves and the Mets.

If the Mets split, the series is a wash. If they lose three, it won’t have much effect one way or the other. Oh, sure, the Mets will drop down another game or two, but we’re at a point now where it doesn’t matter much. We can still say “there’s plenty of season left”, “Johan is a second-half pitcher”, “Moises Alou will come back healthy after the All-Star break”, and similar delusions.

Interestingly, if the Mets take three of four, it will be equally indifferent. Yeah, winning the series will be nice, but it will make their record on game over .500, and they’ll still be about four games back.

However, if the Mets sweep, it’s a whole new ballgame.

A sweep would put the Mets at 46-43. A few games over .500 doesn’t look so encouraging, but it’s what they’ll do to the Phillies’ loss column that matters. You see, a sweep by the Mets increases the Phillies’ loss total to 42, and the Mets will still be at 43 — separating the two teams by only one loss. The beauty of looking at loss totals is this: as the season progresses, you can win more, but you can’t lose less.So although the Phillies would be five games over .500 after suffering a sweep, they’ll be in a tougher position because they’ll have already played 91 games to the Mets’ 89. Now again, look at the loss column. The Mets will have two extra games between now and the end of the season — two games they have an opportunity to win. In contrast, the Phillies can’t erase the two extra losses.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that the Mets will win those two extra games, or that they’ll win enough in the second half to make those two games matter. But we can dream, can’t we?

Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday: Johan Santana vs. J.A. Happ
A few weeks ago, this is a no-brainer: pocket a win for the Mets. However, Johan has yet to win under Jerry Manuel’s leadership, and despite a sparkling ERA has performed short of expectations. His velocity is down, gopher balls are up, and he’s already thrown David Wright under the bus. The Mets beat up on Happ in his lone start last year, but Happ has been outstanding in AAA of late. No guarantees here.

Saturday: John Maine vs. Jamie Moyer
Again, this should be a guaranteed win for the Mets, but Maine has fallen on hard times lately, the victim of a “dead arm” (or is it a dead head?). The 86-year-old Moyer is kryptonite against overly aggressive lineups such as the Mets, and seems to always find a way to keep the Mets handcuffed over six to seven innings. I’d love to say Maine’s going to step up and take this game, but there’s this lingering doubt in my mind.

Sunday: Oliver Perez vs. Kyle Kendrick
Ollie Perez is synonymous with “tossup”. We don’t know what Kendrick will bring to the table, and we don’t care, because his performance is moot in relation to the game’s outcome. If Ollie pitches up to his competition, the way he did in the Bronx last week, then the Mets will win — end of story. If Mr. Hyde shows up, then the Mets will either pack it in after falling behind early, or will have to temporarily take on the Phillies’ offensive personality and turn the game into home run derby. As much as I love the Mets, I don’t like their chances in a slugfest against the Phillies. I’m not a betting man, so I won’t put money on nor against Ollie. I will, however, cross my fingers in hopes that Mr. Hyde stays far away.

Monday: Pedro Martinez vs. Adam Eaton

Like Ollie Perez and lately John Maine, we have no idea what Pedro will give us — it’s a complete crapshoot. And speaking of crap, there’s Adam Eaton, perhaps the crappiest starting pitcher in the National League, who for some reason manages to pitch like Christy Mathewson against the Mets.

Bottom Line

Can the Mets sweep the Phillies and therefore make the second half exciting? Of course — anything is possible. Will they? Probably not. Personally, I’m going to assume that the Mets continue their win / lose pattern, and hope they take at least one or two of these games. If they take three, great — it will be a pleasant surprise. If that sounds pessimistic, I apologize, but the reality is that thus far, the Mets have not given me any reason to expect dominance.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude July 4, 2008 at 11:33 am
    Joe, you might want to revise the post. The series is actually 4 games, with a night-cap on Monday with Pedro opposing Met-killer Adam Eaton. I do share your bleak optimism, however. On paper, it appears as though the Mets have considerable edges in pitching match-ups, but I’m sure most teams go into a series with the Phillies thinking their pitching will trump Philly’s just to see Philly’s offense hit 6 home runs per game (especially at home) and for Philly’s pitching and bullpen to perform surprisingly good.

    But really, the outcome of the series means little. If the Mets sweep, it still leaves them a half game out of 1st with a whole ton of time left in the year to go into a tailsping again. If the Phillies sweep, it just confirms the obvious that the Mets aren’t as good as so many people think they are. And if any other combination of wins and losses occurs, it practically leaves the Mets in the same spot they’re in now, which is languishing around .500 without much consistency or momentum.

    On a side note, look at the Mets September schedule opposed to the Phillies and tell me which team appears to have the easier go of it as the postseason approaches. Assuming the Mets are within striking distance of a playoff spot (and assuming is about as much as we can do these days), I have to say I don’t like the Mets’ chances seeing how many consecutive games they have to play and who they have left on the schedule. I guess it wouldn’t be in true Mets fashion if they didn’t have the odds stacked against them.

  2. Coop July 4, 2008 at 12:11 pm
    Hey Joe! I must have missed the part where Johan threw DW under the bus. Any linkage? Thanks!
  3. joe July 4, 2008 at 1:58 pm
    ‘dude, thanks for the heads-up! that’s why I’m not a professional blogger yet … I can’t even get the games straight!

    Coop, after Game 75, Johan surreptitiously threw David under the bus, stating something to the effect of “players need to make the routine plays”. It was the game vs. the Mariners that Wright booted a grounder that would have been the third out, but instead loaded the bases for American League pitcher Felix Hernandez, who had 7 career at-bats.

    You probably remember the rest of that sad story …

  4. Coop July 4, 2008 at 2:32 pm
    ah-ha! that’s it. I remember reading that, but i’ve been suffering from post-traumatic Mets disorder. trying to block it out