|April 9: Mets 11, Phillies 5 WP: Feliciano (1-0) LP: Geary (0-1)|
|April 11: Phillies 5, Mets 2 WP: Eaton (1-1) LP: Perez (1-1) S: Gordon (1)|
|April 12: Mets 5, Phillies 3 WP: Glavine (2-1) LP: Moyer (1-1) S: Wagner (2)|
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A week ago--it was only a week ago--the season began for both the Phillies and Mets with the usual mix of hope and trepidation. Neither team had done all that well through a month of spring games in Florida, and neither had really addressed the biggest concern they'd faced when camps opened in February--the bullpen, for the Phils, and the rotation, for the Mets.
As Phillies fans, what we've seen in the first week of play has been mostly painful. Bullpen meltdowns and blown late leads in the first two games, two more blown leads, albeit earlier, in the last two, and scads of runners left on base throughout. It's added up to a lot of frustration, gnashing of teeth, and in some cases, indulgence of our inner Negadelphians.
But while it stinks to be 1-and-a-lot yet again, and it's a worrying thing to be four games out of first after six contests, it's probably not as bad as all that. The team has led in four of its five losses, and they've all been by three runs or fewer. With men in scoring position, the Phillies are hitting all of .204, with 10 hits in 49 at-bats. (Take away the much-maligned Pat Burrell, and the average drops to .156. I'm sure WIP and the gaggle of buffoons on the beat will get around to noting that any minute now...) Last year as a team, they hit .255 with RISP, and even that seemed on the low side--certainly well below their overall .267 team average.
Even at .255, though, they'd have three more hits with RISP for this young season, and given the close outcomes of the losses, that likely would mean one or two more wins, and probably a two-game deficit rather than four.
The problem is that these close losses have come against divisional opponents. The accursed Braves, who generally start slow, look like they've reloaded, and the Marlins might have the best raw talent in the division. You know what they say about close and when it counts, and these first two series can only be regarded as opportunities squandered.
Which brings us to the Mets.
The reigning division champs looked unstoppable through their first four games, outscoring the Cardinals and Braves by a combined score of 31-3. The starters, such a source of concern through the spring, have put up a cumulative 1.41 ERA. The bullpen isn't quite what it was thanks to departures and injuries--Aaron Heilman continues his eerie paralleling of Ryan Madson by blowing a late lead against the Braves on Sunday--but the offense looks fine, with Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran again off to strong starts. And, of course, the Mets enter the series with the confidence of having handled the Phillies with relative ease in 2006, winning 11 of 19 meetings.
As if the Mets needed further confidence for Monday's home opener, they'll send righthander John Maine--who went 3-0, 0.96 against the Phillies last year--to the mound against Cole Hamels. Oliver Perez, who looks to have rediscovered his command and could be back on track for the stardom many predicted for him after his superb 2004 season, goes on Wednesday against Adam Eaton, and ancient slopballing lefties collide Thursday night when Mets ace Tom Glavine squares off with Jamie Moyer.