Series Preview: Mets vs. Phillies

phillies-76The phireworks will be on the phield in Philadelphia this weekend, as the second-place Mets take on the phirst-place Phillies in a series that could be a turning point in the season for both teams.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the Phillies are not alone at the top of the division — the Florida Marlins have crept in to share the top seed thanks to an offensive resurgence and solid starting pitching. At the same time, the Phils have been stumbling mightily, losing their last three in a row and seven of their last ten ballgames.

The Phillies’ slide has been congruent with the absence of Raul Ibanez, who has been on the DL since June 18 with a groin strain. He was scheduled to return this evening in time for the Mets, but Philly has decided to play it cautious and hold him back a few days (what a novel concept!). Philadelphia has also been affected by injuries to their pitching staff — LOOGY Scott Eyre, middle man Clay Condrey, and rookie Antonio Bastardo are all on the DL, and Brad Lidge just came off a few days ago (Eyre might be activated this weekend). Additionally, Jimmy Rollins’ season-long slump continues, Cole Hamels has allowed 17 hits and 11 runs in his last 9 innings, and Lidge cannot be trusted to close games.

Game 1: Livan Hernandez(5-3, 4.04 ERA) vs. Rodrigo Lopez (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

You read that right — Rodrigo Lopez is alive and well and starting Friday night for the Phillies. Lopez, who hasn’t been relevant since 2005, and not thrown an MLB pitch in two years, was chosen to make this start instead of top prospect Carlos Carrasco (among others). The 33-year-old was 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA in his last three starts at Class AAA Lehigh Valley. From what I understand he still throws junk. Facing Lopez will be Livan Hernandez, who continues to do exactly what the Mets need him to do — eat innings and keep the team in ballgames. Keep on keeping on, Livan!

Game 2: Fernando Nieve (3-1, 2.25 ERA) vs. Jamie Moyer (6-6, 6.05 ERA)

Talk about a contrast in starters — one, a young flamethrower on the rise, the other, an old junkballer at his demise. Fernandomania suffered a setback a few days ago, but even Jorge Sosa wasn’t perfect through his first four starts (ironically, Sosa also lost his fourth start as a Met — an 8-1 drubbing at the hands of the Braves). If Nieve keeps his fastball down the way he did in his first three starts, he should be OK. What Moyer brings to the table is anyone’s guess — he’s been consistently inconsistent (though pretty impressive for someone collecting Social Security checks).

Game 3: Johan Santana (9-6, 3.34 ERA ) vs. Joe Blanton (4-4, 5.08 ERA)

Santana is still among the top thee starters in all of baseball, but his month of June was the worst of his career. One can only hope that a new month changes that pattern. Blanton has been up and down, and lately down — the Phillies have lost all of his last five starts. He’s been pushed far beyond the 100-pitch count several times this year, so don’t be surprised to see him lingering if the game is close in the late innings.

Final Thoughts

The Mets might take two out of three, or even sweep. They could just as easily get swept — that’s the way this season is playing out for everyone in the NL East. Find a comfy chair, crack open a cold one, sit back, and enjoy the ballgames.

Or, if this rollercoaster ride is too much, distract yourself by attempting to grill the perfect burger this weekend — at least that goal is within your control.

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. sincekindergarten July 3, 2009 at 3:36 pm
    Make that several cold ones. That way, if the Mets go back to their losing ways, it’ll numb the pain; and if the Mets continue their winning ways, it’ll make the celebration that much better!