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On the number ten bus, we fight and fuss: Phillies vs. Mets series preview

What happens when two disappointing NL East teams face off?

MLB: New York Mets at Atlanta Braves
Congrats to Francisco Lindor for no longer being the most disappointing shortstop in the division!
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

A split in Truist Field wasn’t the worst possible outcome for the Phillies, even if the series finale left a bad taste in their mouths. (Maybe we should try using an opener for Dylan Covey again.) The Phillis’ tour against division rivals will continue as the Phillies head up the East coast to take on another 2022 playoff team that has yet to find their footing in 2023.

New York Mets

Record: 27-27, Third place in National League East (5.5 games back)

The manager

Last year at this time, everyone was praising Buck Showalter for getting the Mets into first place. But a late season fall from first place followed by a loss in the Wild Card series followed by a disappointing start to 2023, and everyone is remembering why Schowalter has been fired from four previous teams. Sure, he’ll establish a level of competence - which the Mets previously lacked - but he doesn’t seem to be able to get a team over the top and returns diminish quickly.

The last time they Met

For whatever reason, the Mets had the Phillies’ number in 2022. The Phillies went 5-14 against the Mets last year, and while most of that damage came early in the year (One reason I’m thankful for the balanced schedule is that we no longer get months in which teams play about 12 games against each other), the Phillies still went 2-6 post-Girardi.

What does that mean for this season?

What’s the deal with the Mets?

The Mets offense features Pete Alonsoand his “dad bod” hitting a lot of home runs, Brandon Nimmo as a walking annoyance, and then a whole bunch of players disappointing to some degree. (Remember the good old days when Francisco Lindor was the most underachieving shortstop in the division?)

Pitching wise, it seems like the plan to build a rotation around two guys over the age of 38 might have been flawed. Justin Verlander already has two starts where he’s given up six runs, and Max Scherzer has pitched better lately, but probably won’t be factoring into the Cy Young discussion this year. In relief, they’re using our handsome friend David Robertson in a key relief role, and as any Phillies fan knows, that’s generally not a good long-term strategy.

Boo this man

Once a player is in a commercial that I am forced to watch too many times, I tend to hate him. Remember this one from the 2022 playoffs?

While it was funny at first since, you know, the Phillies were still in the playoffs, and the Mets weren’t, it ceased being funny around the 200th viewing.

Question marks aplenty

The Phillies’ scheduled starters for the series are Ranger Suarez, Aaron Nola, and Taijuan Walker, and your guess is as good as mine as to how any of them will pitch this series. There is some reason for optimism though.

This will be Walker’s first time facing his former team, so he might want to show them they made a mistake in letting him go. His numbers at Citi Field are somewhat encouraging, so maybe it’s not too much to ask that he actually have three solid starts in a row.

Nola has a sub-3.00 ERA at Citi the past two seasons. He’s coming off a poor start, and since Nola’s whole brand seems to be confusion, it seems reasonable to expect a good outing this time. As for Suarez, his history says that he’s not nearly as bad as he’s looked this year, so he’s either still injured, or he’s bound to turn things around soon. (I’m really hoping it's the later.)

I probably sound like a broken record with this, but a trend has been established: If the Phillies starters pitch well, they generally win. If the starters put the team in an early hole, they generally lose. Sure, it would be great if the hitters could win a slugfest or two, but they can’t be expected to do that every night.

Hi, Kodai

The Phillies will get their first look at Japanese import Kodai Senga, known for his “ghost fork” pitch.

Despite the dominance of that pitch, Senga has been good, but not great in his brief time in America. A lack of longevity seems to be holding him back, as he has yet to pitch in a seventh inning. He’ll strike out his share of batters (He had 12 Ks in six innings in a start against the Rays) but also give up some walks. Of course, given the Phillies’ free-swinging ways, he’ll probably make it into the seventh inning with only about 60 pitches or so.

The Mets as an MCU villain

Justin Hammer

Given Hammer’s financial resources and willingness to use them, he should be a real threat. But his constant insecurity about his “little brother” status to Tony Stark, and his unfailing ability to self-sabotage, leaves him more of a danger to himself than anyone else.


Last series’ answer: The Phillie with the most strikeouts at Chase Field since the start of 2012 is Vince Velasquez. I’m somewhat relieved that nobody got that one.

This series’ question: Which current Phillie has made five career appearances at CitiField without giving up a run?

Non-Phillies thought

I’m not that enthused about the Sixers’ hire of Nick Nurse. Then again, I’m not enthused about much regarding the Sixers after their playoff flameout. Despite all the Harden to Houston rumors, it now feels like they’ll bring him back and see if Nurse can succeed where Doc Rivers failed.

On the bright side, I can see Nurse using the regular season to actually experiment with things that might be needed for the playoffs, rather than Doc Rivers trying to earn as many wins as he can in order to bolster his Hall of Fame credentials.

Closing thought

The Phillies avoided disaster against the Braves, but they’ll need to prove they’re not going to roll over for the Mets the way they did in 2022. The three scheduled starters are certainly capable of pitching them to victory, so it would be nice if that actually happened.

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