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).
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.
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.
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.