Series Preview: Mets vs. Phillies

The Mets’ second-place position in the standings was short — maybe 30 hours or so — but it was enjoyable. And the team still is only a game out of first, despite falling to third place as a result of the Braves’ 2-1 win over the Brewers on Monday. Optimism is high after the first three games of the season: Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes are healthy, the team is hitting, the team is pitching, the defense has been nearly flawless. It’s good times all around for Mets fans.

And just when we were starting to ride a smidgen of momentum, here come the Philliies.

The Mets go to Citizens Bank Park to play a three-game set against their arch rivals. It’s still early, of course, but what happens in Philly won’t stay in Philly — it will shape what we as fans think about our Metsies. If the orange and blue can win at least two games in this series, our hopes will ascend to heights not felt in a long time. Anything else, and not only will our doubts be confirmed but the rest of the world will shake their head, smirk, and say, “same old Mets”.

Personally, I would have preferred this test to take place a few weeks from now — not in the second series of the season. And while it’s true that one series this early in the year doesn’t mean anything … well, it does.

Game One: Chris Young vs. Cole Hamels
Young proved to be both healthy and excellent in spring training, so with that the Mets should have a fighting chance in the opener. However, Young’s pitches tend to find their way in the higher part of the strike zone, and as a result he’s traditionally given up a preponderance of fly balls (and line-drives). That plays well in big parks such as Citi Field and Petco, but doesn’t always play well in homer-happy parks such as CBP. Young has pitched three times in the bandbox, and in those games has posted a 1-1 record with a 6.60 ERA and 1.66 WHIP, allowing 2 HR, a .311 AVG and .865 OPS. That’s a small sample size, so it doesn’t mean he’ll get rocked. Further, we have seen Hamels struggle against the Mets in the past, so there is plenty of hope.

Game Two: Mike Pelfrey vs. Joe Blanton

Which Mike Pelfrey will show up? The one that looked like one of the top 5 pitchers in baseball last spring, or the one who allowed 8 baserunners and 5 earned runs in 4 1/3 innings last Friday night? A week ago, we’d have looked at this matchup and assumed the Mets had the decided advantage. Now, we wonder if Big Pelf can get through the fourth inning. If Pelf is on his game and can repeat his good mechanics, it should be a beautiful ballgame to watch for Mets fans. If not, it could get ugly, quickly. We need Pelfrey to be an ace and take advantage of facing the other team’s worst starter; but there is that fear he’ll instead be a joker.

Game Three: Jon Niese vs. Roy Halladay

If it were almost any other pitcher going against Jon Niese, I’d say the Mets are looking good. Niese had the best outing of the three starters we’ve seen thus far, instilling confidence and providing hope for Mets fans. It can be argued that right now, Niese is the best starter the Mets have (yeah, it’s early, but speaking “in the moment”, it’s a statement of fact), but is Niese’s best good enough to challenge the great Roy Halladay? Something to add to the hope: Halladay has a 4.58 ERA against the Mets in 8 career starts (never mind that he was 4-0 with a 2.56 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in four starts vs. the Mets last year).

Phillies Offense

Ryan Howard is 7-for-13 (.538) with a 1.346 OPS — which is in Willie Harris territory. Jimmy Rollins has let his bat do the talking thus far, hitting a cool .500 with a .571 OBP. The next best hitters are Ben Francisco (.462), Placido Polanco (.417), and Wilson Valdez (.364!). On the bright side, Carlos Ruiz and Raul Ibanez are hovering around the Mendoza Line. Also good news: Jayson Werth is still in a Nationals uniform.

Phillies Injuries

Closer Brad Lidge and second baseman Chase Utley are out of action, as is youngster Domonic Brown. Placido Polanco is playing with a hyperextended left elbow, but it doesn’t seem to have hampered his play. Shane Victorino suffered a calf injury over the weekend, but it does not appear to be serious.

Bottom Line

Hey, it’s early. But it’s an early test for the Mets. What do you think? Is this series important? Will you feel confident if the Mets take two (or three)? Will you be concerned if they don’t? Or do you have no feeling whatsoever — this series can’t change or affect your opinion of the Mets regardless what happens? State your case in the comments.


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. Metstourettes April 5, 2011 at 1:43 pm
    Anything else, and not only will our doubts be confirmed but the rest of the world will shake their head, smirk, and say, “same old Mets”.

    Are you kidding?

    If Mets go to Citi on Friday 3-3 that will be more than what most people exepcted so how do you say “our doubts will be confirmed”?

    It is the second series of the year!

    Taking 2 out of 3 may provide some momentum but even then ITS THE SECOND SERIES OF THE YEAR.

  2. Steve S. April 5, 2011 at 3:45 pm
    I have a feeling—and that’s all it is—that “Good Pelf” will show up and the Mets will win the second game in the series (but that’s it). Hoping for 2 out of 3 though.
    • Joe April 5, 2011 at 10:03 pm
      Then again, the Mets have owned Hamels, and showed it again tonight. So, 2-1 is something to hope for.
  3. Sebastian April 5, 2011 at 4:42 pm
    For the most part I’d just like to see the Mets play good baseball and play 3 competitive games with what should be the best team in the NL.

    I’m also interested to see how Young, Neise and Pelfrey do against a lineup that should be significantly worse right now than it was last year.

    I’d really like the Mets to win at least one, just to gain some confidence that they can hang with the Phils.

  4. Nick April 5, 2011 at 11:01 pm
    Two things I learned after today’s Met’s game.
    Chris Young throws funky.
    And because of divisional tie breakers (which the MLB doesn’t use haha), we are in FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRRRRRSSSSSTTTTT!!!! We’re # 1!We’re # 1!We’re # 1!We’re # 1!We’re # 1!We’re # 1!We’re # 1!
  5. Steve in Australia April 6, 2011 at 12:39 am
    Woke up this morning at 8.15am, 25 minutes before the first pitch and decided that I wasn’t well enough for work today! And my decision to stay home and watch the ball game was a good one.

    I came into this series hoping that we didn’t get swept and we rolled into Citi at least .500 – now I’m optimistic that we can take 2 of 3. It’s early days yes, but taking a game here and there that we aren’t expected to win, especially the ones that can go either way, are huge. Games we win now are wins we don’t have to chase later.

    Maybe Jerry Seinfeld called the club and reminded the lads what can be achieved when you try the opposite. Last season we opened at home with a win to Florida, then lost 6 of the next seven. This season we opened away with a lose to Florida….