Archive: April 13th, 2015

Series Preview: Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Mets

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.

Monday’s Matchup:

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.

Tuesday’s Matchup:

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.

Wednesday’s Matchup:

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

Phillies:

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.

Mets:

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.

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Mets Game 6: Win Over Braves

Mets 4 Braves 3

I know Bartolo Colon isn’t everyone’s favorite person, but I love watching the guy. I’d watch him pitch softball. Damn, I’d watch him play petanque. He struts and postures and pouts like an XXXL Mick Jagger, basically playing chicken with hitters and usually winning.

Colon showcases four pitches. There’s the change-up inside that no one bothers to swing at. There’s the slider outside no one bothers to swing at (well, Nick Markakis did in the 6th… but it’s rare). His signature pitch is a fastball that gently curves from left to right at 86-91 mph… people like to fly out to that. And then there’s his meatball, his two-strike and straight-down-the-middle fastball that hitters often forget to hit for extra bases. Jonny Gomes hit one of those BP fastballs for a homer and Andrelton Simmons crushed a couple of them. But, somehow, they mostly they get outs, and they were enough to get Colon his second win and save the bullpen too much work.

Colon is the master of economy. He threw 77 pitches over 7 innings and 72 of them were fastballs. He also dumped a base hit over second base and laughed as he did so. The bleachers shook as he lumbered over to cover first base a couple of times, but he gets there. He expends more energy winking and smiling at everyone around him. Like a maniac in a truck, he just barrels forward with constant strikes. And, unlike Jenrry Meija, I hope it’s just fueled by tequila and courage.

The Mets’ offense was mostly fueled by Michael Cuddyer. He’s had a rough start and is leading the NL in strikeouts. Like David Wright yesterday, he golfed a two-run homer in the first with an ugly uppercut swing. It worked but it didn’t look great. But I’m still convinced he’s a 4-for-4 away from everyone thinking he’s doing great. Yeah, he looked horrible in the 5th on a change-up outside and almost lazy on Simmons’ double, but he’s an oddly reassuring grey-haired presence. The SNY team told us that Fredi Gonzalez said the “6th tool is character” when describing Jonny Gomes’ skills. I guess Cuddyer has the same effect, just without Gomes’ annoying tipping of the helmet.

The 5 and 1 Braves are a strange team. I’m also convinced they are not a good team. Alberto Callaspo botched a couple of plays, but more notable was that Alex Wood threw a laser-straight fastball and gentle off-speed pitches with a consistent break that made them hittable. Despite Wood’s gaudy numbers last year (1.14 WHIP), the Braves’ “number two” looked very tame and he seemed scared to throw his looping curveball. He’s got a swiveling, lanky delivery and he was unlucky at times – Anthony Recker should have been called out in the third on an 0 and 2 pitch – but his stuff looked very similar to Jerry Blevins. Blevins did a decent job in relief for the Mets, playing the swingman role that Wood used to have. The Braves also had Eric Young Jr. leading off. He’s another player I love (I winced when he struck out on four pitches in the first) but he should not be batting first in any lineup.

This first trip has been strange too. The Mets are 3-3 despite being unable to hit the ball. Nine hits in this game felt like some sort of miracle. Curtis Granderson is playing his own game of chicken, waiting for the pitcher to throw him a strike. He may end up with a .350 on-base percentage on 100 hits. Wright is still upper-cutting and Wilmer Flores looks lost at sea with nothing but chewing gum for company.

But, somehow, Lucas Duda is hitting left-handed pitching. Travis d’Arnaud has a nice, flat swing. Jeurys Familia’s pitches seem to be remote-controlled (did you see the sink on his last pitch?) And Colon – the kinda lovable Bartolo Colon – is leading the league in wins.

I heard this week that Colon keeps everyone loose by letting off firecrackers in the clubhouse. Well, that would get me on the toilet too. But if it wakes up the offense then let’s say thanks to the XXXL Jagger. When his right arm falls off, he’ll still be able to win games throwing underarm with his left.

Mets4Brave3SteveHussy

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