The end of the baseball season is always accompanied by a sense of sadness. Unless a team makes the postseason - and I’m not exactly holding my breath when it comes to the Phillies - it leaves fans questioning what went wrong and whether or not things might be better next year. For a team like the Phillies, which once seemed like a probable playoff participant, the sadness is pronounced.
On the bright side, once the 2018 season ends, we will be mercifully granted a lengthy stretch of days before we have to watch the Phillies play the New York Mets again (Not until April 15, 2019!). As you may have noticed, for whatever reason, the Mets seem to bring out the absolute worst in the Phillies. Maybe the team can spend the offseason finding ways to avoid similar misery in 2019.
The Last Time They Met
Remember when the Phillies caught a break when Jacob deGrom was scratched from his scheduled start? And remember how the Phillies wasted that break by scuffling against a series of nondescript Mets relievers and having their own starter struggle? (At this point, I don’t remember who started that game. I think it was Vince Velasquez, but it really could have been any of them besides Aaron Nola.)
In case you had somehow managed to scrub that unpleasant memory from your brains, I’m glad I could remind you!
Despite dealing with two weather-related postponements and a series against the Red Sox (although that was somewhat mitigated by a series against the Marlins), the Mets have put up a respectable 4-3 record this past week.
Thanks for Nothing, Mets
The Mets have fared well when playing the Phillies, Marlins, and Nationals. Against that triumvirate of division rivals, they have a cumulative record of 28-19. But against the Atlanta Braves, the Mets have gone a pathetic 4-12. So in case you were looking for another reason to hate the Mets, there it is!
Thanks for Nothing, Asdrubal
According to the stat sheet, Asdrubal Cabrera has been the Phillies’ most valuable player over the past two weeks. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that he’s been generally underwhelming since joining the Phillies. More importantly, the team has gone in the tank since his arrival. (Remember, Smarty adheres to the theory that correlation always equals causation!)
I’m not going to blame all of the Phillies’ problems on the arrival of Cabrera. But perhaps it was a bad idea to trade for someone from the Mets. He seems to have infected the Phillies’ clubhouse with whatever stink has plagued the Mets for most of the season. On the bright side, I did get to read Liz Roscher refer to him as a “muppet-faced out machine.”
Perhaps his presence irks me more because it means less playing time for a guy who might actually have a future with the Phillies if given a proper chance.
J.P. Crawford Update
That’s right, I’m going to write about J.P. Crawford again. Maybe I wouldn’t be so hung up on his lack of playing time if we were given a logical explanation for it. For instance, after his big game on Thursday, you might have thought that Crawford merited additional playing time over the weekend. That’s unless you’ve been paying attention to the Phillies over the past month and realized that somebody in the Phillies’ decision-making team definitely does not like Crawford.
On Friday and Saturday, the Phillies were facing left handed starters, and as a result, they went with righty-heavy lineups. Since Crawford hits from the left side of the plate, his exclusion was justified. But Gabe Kapler has shown no qualms about substituting early and often, yet Crawford’s involvement was minimal. Crawford made one pinch hitting appearance on Saturday, but when the team needed a defensive replacement at shortstop, Pedro Florimon got the call instead of Crawford.
On Sunday, Crawford actually got a start, and reached base twice. That seems like a positive, yet when Crawford’s spot in the lineup came up in the ninth inning, Jose Bautista was sent out to pinch hit. Baby steps, I guess.
Scheduled Starters for the Mets (aka which Mets pitchers will shut down the Phillies hitters and make us question why we’re still watching)
Believe it or not, Wheeler has not pitched well against the Phillies in 2018. In his only start, he gave up three runs in 4.2 innings. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Wheeler has been really good since the beginning of June, and is coming off a start where he pitched eight shutout innings.
On the other hand, Vargas has pitched well against the Phillies. He faced them in the ESPN-televised Little League Classic and limited them to two runs in 5.2 innings. That came in August, which has been the only month this season that Vargas hasn’t been dreadful. So there’s reason to hope he won’t be as good this time around. (At least there would be if this wasn’t the Phillies.)
This will be Matz’ fourth start against the Phillies this season. He’s got a 5.25 ERA against them, so he hasn’t done all that well. Does that mean he won’t pitch six solid innings against the Phillies and earn a win this time around? Of course not!
Scheduled Starters for the Phillies
We’re going to get Jake Arrieta, Aaron Nola, and Zach Eflin in this series. There was a time earlier this year when that would have filled us all with hope. These days, it’s tough to know just what we’re going to get out of these three.
Arrieta hasn’t been great lately, but for whatever reason, fans don’t seem all that upset with him. I think - despite his Cy Young Award winning history - the fans realized we were getting more of a mid-rotation guy than a top-of-the-rotation presence. Nola hasn’t had a strong September, and it seems like the pressure of carrying the team on his back for most of the season may have worn him down a bit. As for Eflin, he finally pitched well his last time out. Is it too much to ask him to do that again?
Boo This Man
This series will also thankfully be the last time we have to watch Jeff McNeil kill the Phillies. The rookie has solid overall numbers, but he mysteriously turns into Mike Trout when he faces Phillies pitching. His OPS versus the Phils is 1.111 and I think he’s gotten at least one big hit in each game.
Nola will rebound and win his start, but the other two starters won’t pitch well enough to overcome the Phillies’ irritating, yet familiar lack of sustained offense. It will be unpleasant, but at least we’ll finally be done with the Mets when it’s over.