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Easier said than done: Phillies vs. Mets series preview

Four games against the Mets seems like an easy opportunity to pick up wins. But games against the Mets are rarely easy.

MLB: JUN 01 Phillies at Mets
We hopefully won’t see much of Brandon Nimmo on the basepaths
Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Wednesday’s win over the Braves should give the Phillies confidence if they happen to meet them again in the playoffs. But in order to face the Braves in the playoffs, the Phillies will need to get to the NLDS. The best way to do that would be to win the NL’s top Wild Card berth. And the way to do that is by winning a majority of their upcoming games against a Mets team that has fallen well short of expectations.

The Mets are not going to make the playoffs and could officially be eliminated during this series. But as anyone who’s followed these teams over the past two years can tell you, wins over the Mets never seem to come as often or as easily as they should.

New York Mets

Record: 71-81, Fourth place in National League East (26 games back)

The last time they Met

In late June, the Phillies had begun to surge while the Mets were starting to swoon, and that showed up on the field. The Phillies won two out of three and the Mets only avoided the sweep due to a well-pitched game by Max Scherzer, something that is unlikely to happen this series.

What’s the deal with the Mets?

After a 101-win season in 2022 that ended in a loss in the Wild Card round, the Mets attempted to regroup behind ace pitchers Scherzer and Justin Verlander. It didn’t work. All those big names and expensive salaries couldn’t get the Mets anywhere near the playoff picture.

The Mets wisely raised the white flag at the trade deadline, sending away Scherzer, Verlander, Tommy Pham, and others. Now, the Mets are left with Pete Alonso and his dad bod, Francisco Lindor and his stupid commercials, and Brandon Nimmo and his stupid post-walk celebrations.

Should be hittin’ season, right?

With Scherzer and Verlander gone, and Kodai Senga not scheduled to pitch in the series, it feels like this should be an opportunity for the Phillies’ bats to go off. But it might not be that simple as all four of the Mets’ scheduled starters have been solid in recent weeks.

David Peterson and Tylor Megill both got off to horrific starts to the season that caused them to be demoted to the minors. But since rejoining the big-league team, they’ve shown definite improvement, and have at least kept the team in games. Journeyman Jose Quintana spent the first part of the season on the Injured List but has provided a stable mid-rotation presence since returning.

The final starter is rookie Jose Butto. This will only be his seventh career start, but he’s impressed in his recent appearances.

As for the bullpen

It looks like the key to beating the Mets may be getting into their bullpen early. In the second half of the season, the Mets’ bullpen ERA is second highest in the National League, behind only the Rockies. For the entire season, their relievers have provided the fewest wins above replacement in the league.

That said, Adam Ottavino - who took over the closer role after the Mets traded David Robertson - has been very good, only giving up four total hits over his last 13 appearances.

Is it possible that David Robertson is cursed, and having sent him to Miami to ruin the Marlins’ season, the Mets’ bullpen is magically fixed? Probably not, considering the rest of the Mets’ bullpen is still bad (4.80 ERA in September), and the Phillies did manage to win the pennant with Handsome Dave on the team.

Too much longball?

I like home runs. You like home runs. The Phillies like hitting home runs (Second most in all of baseball since the All-Star break). That’s all well and good, but sometimes it feels like the Phillies are way too dependent on them.

For example, in Wednesday’s game, it was starting to look like the Phillies were going to lose because the only runs they scored were on a pair of two-run home runs by Nick Castellanos. Eventually, Bryson Stott pulled off the rare feat of getting a non-home run hit with two runners on base, but moments like that have been far too rare.

Someone smarter than me can confirm (or disprove) that home run rates decrease in the playoffs, so the Phillies will probably need to figure out a way to convert those baserunners into runs without sending the ball over the fence.

Leftover MCU villain comparisons

Continuing to assign MCU villain analogies to the teams which got skipped earlier.

Tigers = Yon-Rogg

Yon Rogg and the Kree told the amnesiac Carol Danvers that they had given her a gift in the form of her powers. As it turned out, Yon-Rogg was gaslighting her, and the “gift” was simply a ruse to hold her back from reaching her full potential.

As for the Tigers, they traded Michael Lorenzen to the Phillies, and at first it looked like they had given them a gift in the form of another good starting pitcher. But is has since been revealed that the “gift” has been more of a detriment to the Phillies’ chances than anything.

Welcome back, Scott

Scott Rolen will be inducted into the Phillies’ Wall of Fame on Friday. I’ve made no secret of my disdain for Rolen, and don’t think he deserves to be in either the baseball Hall of Fame nor the Phillies’ version of it.

I’m guessing he’ll receive a mixed reaction. Note to the Phillies organization: If a player you’re putting on the Wall of Fame is getting a mixed reaction from fans, he probably shouldn’t be put on! Then again, what should I expect from a team that invited a Mets fan to throw out the first pitch?

My only hope is that Rolen’s negative energy doesn’t get transferred onto the current team.

Closing thought

The Mets have remained competitive since the trade deadline and have tripped up other would-be contenders. This month, they’ve already recorded series wins against the Mariners, Diamondbacks, and Marlins.

That said, the Phillies are the better team, and need to and should win this series. The Phillies’ series win in June gives me hope that the Mets don’t “have their number,” and they’ll do what needs to be done.

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Rise and Phight: 11/29/2023