After splitting a two-game set against the Red Sox, the Phillies will welcome the Mets to Citizens Bank Park for a five(!)-game series. In theory, five games against a bad team is a good thing, and provides the Phillies with plenty of opportunities for some much-needed wins.
Unfortunately, since these games are against the Mets, it probably won’t be that easy. For whatever reason, when the Phillies play the Mets, the games are usually un-entertaining slogs, and the Phillies end up losing most of them.
Hopefully the Phillies can reverse that trend. The series kicks off with a doubleheader on Thursday, so the Phillies will have an early chance to establish a positive tone. On the other hand, if the first game (first pitch scheduled for 4:05) drags out past 9:00, abandon all hope.
The Last Time They Met
The Phillies and Mets squared off in a four-game series in early July. The Phillies won the two games that were decided in regulation, and lost the two that went into extra innings. (Hooray for ten innings of not scoring!)
The lesson learned: Extra inning games are evil and should be avoided at all costs. Especially when they come against the Mets, because nobody wants to see the unpleasantness dragged out any further than absolutely necessary.
And Since Then?
The Mets have played at a near-.500 pace, going 13-14 since they last saw the Phillies. This has allowed the fourth place Mets to establish a comfortable lead over the fifth place Marlins. That’s probably as high in the standings as they’re likely to go since the third place Nationals are still 8.5 games ahead of them.
Mets Pitching vs. Phillies Hitting
After his excellent debut, I don’t think its premature to say that Wilson Ramos is the magical cure for what ailed the Phillies lineup. Now that Ramos is on hand, I expect the Phillies to consistently put up crooked numbers on the scoreboard. Happy days are here again!
The Mets will have five different pitchers attempt to slow down this burgeoning juggernaut. Some of these pitchers have had good seasons, some have not. One of them used to be really good, but thanks to injuries, its tough to know exactly what to expect.
The opening game of Thursday’s doubleheader will be started by Steven Matz who will be freshly activated from the disabled list. The injury was presumably the reason why his season took such a sharp downturn in July. Before then, he was having a solid season, including a start against the Phillies where he held them to one run in 5.1 innings. But his era was over 6.00 in July before the Mets mercifully shut him down.
The nightcap will be started by Corey Oswalt. His ERA is an unsightly 5.02, but that’s mostly because he had a few awful starts early on, and he doesn’t pitch deep into games. He’s usually good for five to six innings in which he allows two or three runs.
Between a guy coming off a DL stint, and another guy who rarely goes deep, the Mets might have to burn a lot of bullpen innings on Thursday. This may be one of those times when the Phillies’ patience at the plate really pays off.
Things will get a little tougher for the Phillies on Friday when they go against Noah Syndergaard. Injuries have once again cost “Thor” a decent chunk of his season, and while he’s been pretty good while healthy, he also isn’t the same dominating force he was back in 2016.
Unfortunately, Saturday’s starter has been dominant this year. Jacob DeGrom is on a short list of contenders for the National League Cy Young Award, and the last time the Phillies saw him, he pitched eight shutout innings. (I guess that means they’re due to score some runs!)
The Phillies will seemingly catch a break in the finale when the Mets will send Jason Vargas to the mound. The veteran lefthander has been consistently bad all season, and he’s only made it as far as the sixth inning in one of his starts this season.
The Mets bullpen has a couple of guys worth noting. Seth Lugo (an under-the-radar trade possibility for the Phillies) and Robert Gsellman have been decent enough when called upon. But if the Mets need to rely on the bullpen too much, it probably will be to the Phillies’ benefit.
Phillies Pitching vs. Mets Hitting
The Mets are not an especially dangerous offensive team, ranking 13th in the National League in runs. And that ranking is partially thanks to a strong offensive season by Asdrubal Cabrera, who as you probably realize, is no longer on the team. Without Cabrera, it has been left to Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto to carry the offense.
To their credit, the Mets offense has been better over the past few weeks. Considering that the Phillies’ offense hasn’t performed well since his arrival, it’s worth wondering if Cabrera has some sort of negative effect on a team’s scoring ability. Damn you, Asdrubal!
The Phillies will use rookie Ranger Suarez and the recently recalled Zach Eflin for the doubleheader. “Ranger Rick” will be making the second start of his big league career. He earned a win in the first one, but that was mostly due to run support since he allowed four runs in his five innings.
As for Eflin, he was famously sent down to the minors this week, and apparently it didn’t sit that well with him. Hopefully he is able to get over it and pitch as well as he has in his last two starts.
Friday’s starter is Aaron Nola, and the Nola vs. Syndergaard matchup should provide for an entertaining, if low-scoring game. This will be Nola’s fourth start against the Mets, and in his most recent one, he shut them out for seven innings.
On Saturday, the Phillies send Jake Arrieta to the mound. Arrieta has been inconsistent lately: His last start was a dud, but before that, he pitched two great games in a row. He’s faced the Mets once already this season, and we got the good Arrieta in that game: 7.1 shutout innings.
The ESPN-televised finale will go to Nick Pivetta. After a rough stretch where there was talk of him getting bumped from the rotation, Pivetta has had a strong August. In his last appearance, he kept the mighty Red Sox lineup in check, only allowing a solo home run in six innings.
It was unfortunate that the Phillies needed to use seven relievers on Wednesday, since Thursday’s doubleheader will likely require a heavy use of the bullpen. It’s especially unfortunate that Seranthony Dominguez was called upon since he’s been notoriously weak when making appearances on consecutive days.
Boo This Man
Yes, Jose Reyes is somehow still on the Mets’ roster. I’m not sure why the Mets think his sub .200 batting average is worth the trouble, but it does provide Phillies fans with an easy target for boos this weekend.
I have some good news for everyone looking forwards to watching the early game on Thursday:
Per Mets notes, the opener of their August 16 doubleheader in Philadelphia (4:05 p.m.) will be broadcast exclusively on Facebook. Make your own jokes here.— Tim Britton (@TimBritton) July 26, 2018
Good luck, everyone.
A Tribute to Billy McMillon
Wilson Ramos isn’t the first player to be traded to the Phillies and have a strong debut for his new team. Let’s take a look back to the dark days of 1997, when the Phillies traded franchise icon Darren Daulton to the Marlins. In exchange, they received a young outfielder named Billy McMillon.
In his first game for the Phillies, “Billy Mac” started in left field against the San Francisco Giants, and powered the Phils to victory with a 3-4 night that included a grand slam. The few fans who were on hand were convinced they had a future star on their hands.
McMillon rewarded that faith by doing absolutely nothing else of note. He hit one home run the rest of the season, and then spent the next three seasons in the minor leagues, before resurfacing in Detroit in 2000.
Let’s just hope that Wilson Ramos can follow up on his big night better than Billy did.
Read Smarty, Listen to Smarty
For those of you who enjoy reading these previews, I have good news: You now have a chance to hear my lovely voice as well. I did a guest spot on the Around the Bases with Bubba and Mo podcast to discuss the Phillies.
If you’d like to hear my thoughts on Gabe Kapler, Aaron Nola, and my (gulp) prediction for the rest of the season, give it a listen:
These games won’t be pretty. They may make us question why we became fans of baseball in the first place. But thankfully, the Phillies will win three of them.