Quick Preview: Mets vs. Phillies
Note: this series has importance.
Game One: Johan Santana (7-3, 2.00 ERA) vs. J.A. Happ (4-0, 2.47 ERA)
Santana has looked more like a mere mortal over his past few starts, but still has been stellar. J.A. / JA Happ still refuses to put a “y” at the end of his first name, but is much improved in comparison to the rookie the Mets saw last year. His WHIP is a Santana-like 0.98 and he has a 1.16 ERA away from Citizens Bank Park. If Happ can keep his cool, this could turn out to be a pitchers’ duel.
Game Two: Mike Pelfrey (4-2, 4.85 ERA) vs. Cole Hamels (4-2, 4.40 ERA)
Big Pelf is coming off the worst start of his career, but I’m not worried — I’m chalking it up to the unusual start time (12:30 PM) and being due for a bad game. Hamels has struggled all spring with a nagging injuries to his ankle and arm, and is not the lights-out guy he was last year. That said, and with Pelfrey looking great prior to his last outing, suggests that this will be a more even matchup than one might expect.
Game Three: Tim Redding (0-2, 6.97 ERA) vs. Jamie Moyer (4-5, 6.27 ERA)
The finale pits two struggling veterans who offer no clue as to how this game might turn out. Redding is coming off one of his two best performances of the season, but nonetheless seemed ever on the brink of disaster. Moyer was awful in April and May, but was very good in his last two outings, allowing a combined 3 runs on 7 hits and no walks in 13 innings against the Dodgers and Nationals. What worries me is Moyer’s remarkable ability to pull a gem of a game out of nowhere … one of those games that has a quick but uneventful rhythm, where before you know it, it’s the 8th inning and the Mets are down 2-1. The expanse of Citi Field will contain the fly balls of Howard, Utley, etc., but what concerns me more is the Phillies’ ability to put the bat on the ball against Redding, who has not been hurt by the long ball but rather a multitude of line drives and grounders that find holes.
Much is being made of the fact that the Phils are sending three lefties to the mound in this series, but I don’t see it as a major issue one way or the other — if anything, it means that Gary Sheffield will be somewhere in the middle of the lineup, and that’s a good thing for the Mets.
The Phillies are coming off a four-game split Los Angeles, one that could have been a sweep for Philly had closer Brad Lidge not blown the middle two games in heartbreaking, emotionally draining fashion. Lidge’s confidence is visibly shaken, and he’s leaving fat, flat sliders over middle of the plate, and his ERA has swelled to 7.27. In many ways, he resembles the pitcher Houston couldn’t wait to get rid of in 20006-2007, and Charlie Manuel may elect to defer to Ryan Madson in a ninth-inning save situation. If Lidge does remain the closer, this series could be a turning point one way or another for veteran righthander.
More good news for the Mets is that Jimmy Rollins is still struggling — mightily. He’s hitting only .222 with a .261 OBP and is sinking further and further down the lineup. It’s gotten to the point that Eric Bruntlett is taking at-bats from him.
Thus far this year, the Phillies’ success has been due to solid starting pitching, but Brad Lidge has singlehandedly removed that factor from the equation recently. The pitching matchups look pretty even on paper, and if Lidge continues to struggle, the Mets have a definite edge, particularly if these games are as low-scoring as I suspect. Considering the players missing from Mets’ roster, they’re running into the Phillies at a good time, in the right place.