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Shades of 2007: Phillies vs. Mets preview

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Much like in 2007, the Phillies’ push for the playoffs will come at the Mets’ expense

MLB: New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies
Noah Syndergaard has had plenty of reasons to look unhappy when facing the Phillies
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies have done a great job of making it seem like they aren’t going to qualify for the playoffs. Most fans have written off the team’s chances, but they must not remember what happened in 2007. Much like that year, the Phillies are poised to make a dramatic run to the postseason, while beating up on the Mets along the way.

Hold tight folks, the fun begins this weekend.

New York Mets

Record: 71-68, Fourth place in National League East

The last time they met

These two teams squared off in Philadelphia last weekend. The Mets won the first two, which means they’ve reached their quota of wins against the Phillies this season.

What have they been up to since then?

Oh, nothing much besides blowing a six-run lead in the ninth inning against the Nationals.

Something interesting about the Mets

It’s September, and the Phillies and Mets have already played each other 16 times this season. If there was anything interesting about the Mets, surely we would have discovered it by now.

I suppose it was slightly intriguing when they got hot for a brief second, but they’re back in fourth pace now. At this point, most of the team’s fans have chosen the focus their energy on the (gulp) Jets, or are busy telling everyone that they’ve always liked both the Mets AND Yankees.

Phillies pitching vs. Mets hitting

The Phillies will start Zach Eflin, Drew Smyly, and Vince Velasquez in this series. At first glance, that’s not the most intimidating group of starters the Mets have faced this season. But upon closer inspection, there’s reason to believe the Mets batters will struggle against that trio.

Now that he’s stopped listening to the coaching staff, Zach Eflin is good again, and presumably will remain that way forevermore. Smyly pitched well in his last start, and has never allowed a base runner to the Mets. The fact that he’s only faced three Mets batters in his career should only mildly mitigate that accomplishment.

As for Velasquez, it’s sometimes hard to be positive when it comes to “Four Inning Vinny,” but he does seem to like pitching in CitiField. He’s made seven starts there, and is 2-1 with a 2.68 ERA.

Despite being obviously over-matched, the Mets will presumably still run a lineup out there this weekend and futilely attempt to score runs. Maybe once the game is out of hand, Pete Alonso can hit another home run or two as he tries to pad his stats set the record for most home runs by a rookie.

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals
Pete Alonso: He’s carried the Mets to the heights of fourth place
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

I can’t get too worked up about the rest of the Mets lineup. Maybe someone from the personality-less blob of guys that includes Wilson Ramos, Michael Conforto, and Jeff McNeil will emerge to have a big series, but none of those guys really strikes much fear into opposing pitchers.

I see that Robinson Cano has made it back from the Injured List, and went 3-3 with a home run in his return game. I’m sure that’s given Mets fans hope that he’ll totally be worth the $24 million per season he’s due to earn over the next four years.

Finally, if you’re worried that Todd Frazier will repeat his hitting performance of last weekend, don’t be. He assuredly got it all out of his system, and will go back to being the underachieving hitter that he’s been for most of the second half.

Mets pitching vs. Phillies hitting

The Mets continue to send Steven Matz out there every five days, an occurrence that has generally led to good things for the Phillies. His last start against the Phillies would have been another disaster if not for the bullpen. He left with the bases loaded and no outs, but reliever Luis Avilan was able to limit the damage to one run. Considering this bullpen just had an epic meltdown earlier this week, it’s difficult to envision that happening again.

The good news for the Mets is that Marcus Stroman’s ERA is now lower than that of the man he replaced in the Mets’ rotation (Jason Vargas). The bad news is that Stroman still doesn’t appear worth the price the Mets paid for him. They lost the last time he started against the Phillies, partly because he couldn’t contain the immortal Brad Miller.

If you still believe a pitcher’s win-loss record is an accurate representation of their talent, I present to you Noah Syndergaard’s 1-0 record against the Phillies this season. In his two starts, he’s allowed a combined nine runs over ten innings. But since the Mets offense had a big day against Jake Arrieta’s bone spurs in one of those games, Syndergaard was deemed the winning pitcher. Congrats, Thor. You really earned it with that lights out performance.

It’s an ominous sign for the Mets that Rhys Hoskins has gotten hot again. He absolutely owns Syndergaard with a .417 average and two home runs in 12 at bats. And while Matz has limited Hoskins to just three hits in 18 at bats, all three of those hits have been home runs. Hoskins might have done even more damage had the umpire not decided to remove him from the game. (Paid off?)

Hoskins hasn’t had the same exposure to Stroman (only 1-3 so far), but Corey Dickerson certainly has. In 30 at bats against Stroman, Dickerson has an OPS of 1.153.

Phlashback of Ineptitude: Jeff Duncan

In 2003, many Mets fans believed that Jeff Duncan was going to be the team’s centerfielder of the future. In midseason of that year, he was called up to see if he could live up to those expectations.

Duncan got off to a hot start; after his first 18 games, he was batting .308 with an .841 OPS. But things went downhill quickly. By season’s end, his OPS had plummeted to .536. He was used sporadically at the start of the 2004 season, but less frequent usage didn’t result in better results. By the first week in May, he was batting .067 and the Mets had seen enough. They sent him to the minor leagues, never to return to the majors again.

However, he still holds a special place in Mets history:

I’m just glad that Jay Bruce has been able to pull himself together.

Prediction

The run to the playoffs begins now. Much like they did in 2007, the Phillies are going to surge to the postseason at the expense of the Mets. Three-game sweep forthcoming.