By: Greg Frank
The Phillies rolled into Nationals Park with a 7-3 record in their last 10 games and a 7-4 record against the Nationals for the season and had no reason to believe that they wouldn’t be able to continue in their winning ways. A couple of blown saves later, one by Ryan Madson and another by Antoino Bastardo with a win sandwiched in between, left the Phillies to ponder why they couldn’t close the door on what could have been a sweep, but turned out to be a series loss. Factor in the fact that they lost the series on a hit batter in the bottom of the 10th inning of Sunday’s game and you’ll realize that although they won the middle game 5-0, it wasn’t a very good weekend. Nevertheless the Phillies return home to Citizens Bank Park to play a struggling New York Mets team. The Mets got swept this weekend by the Milwaukee Brewers and have lost 9 of their last 11 games. The Mets sit at 60-66 on the year, good for 4th in the NL East, and it’s clear that they’re looking to the future as they moved closer Francisco Rodriguez and Center Fielder Carlos Beltran prior to the non-waiver trade deadline. For the Phillies, the future is now as they look to rebound in the middle three games of this 9-game NL East stretch.
Before addressing the starting pitching matchups for these next three games, it’s worth noting that hopefully the two games the Phillies dropped to the Nationals were just bumps in the road. Ryan Madson and Antonio Bastardo have been excellent all season out of the pen and entered this series with 1 blown save between the two of them. While they each blew saves this weekend, an optimistic fan would look at and think that this was bound to happen to both Madson and Bastardo and now that it’s over with both should revert back to form. Being the first full season that either pitcher has had a significant number of save opportunities I’d say Ryan Madson’s 23/25 and Antonio Bastaro’s 8/9 is still pretty good.
For the series opener, the Mets will send southpaw Jonathan Niese to the mound in a battle of lefthanders. Niese will be opposed by Cliff Lee on Monday night. Niese has faced the Phillies four times already this season posting a 2-2 record in those four games having pitched 23.2 innings in those four starts and allowing 11 runs, nine of which were earned. While those numbers aren’t bad for a combined four starts against the Phillies it’s his numbers at Citizens Bank Park this season that should open people’s eyes. Niese is 0-2 at the Bank this year and allowed eight earned runs in those two starts in a combined total of 10.1 innings pitched . Lee on the other hand has only faced the Mets once this season and it was way back on the first of May in which he tossed seven strong innings but wasn’t supported enough offensively in what ended up being a 14-inning 2-1 Phillies loss. Lee has won his last four starts and hopefully a similar outing to the 7 innings he threw on May 1st against the Mets will make it five straight wins for Lee.
Tuesday’s matchup has Vance Worley (8-1 2.76 ERA) slated to go against Dillion Gee (11-4 3.92 ERA) for the Mets. Worley has had two previous starts against the Mets this season, one of which was his season debut and a win for the rookie, while the other was his only loss of the season and he allowed eight earned runs in a two inning span. Though that game was in New York and Tuesday night Worley is back at Citizens Bank Park where he shut down the Mets in late April to earn his first win of the 2011 campaign. Gee has not started against the Phillies yet this year but on April 29th allowed four earned runs in 1.2 innings pitched out of relief in Philadelphia. While there’s really not a whole lot to read into because Gee’s numbers indicate he’s having a decent 2011 season, if Gee continues down a similar path Tuesday he could be in for a long night.
Wednesday afternoon’s matinee has Kyle Kendrick currently scheduled to go against Mike Pelfrey. There has been no further information released on the status of Cole Hamels so it looks as if Kendrick will get another start. He pitched in relief three times against the Mets earlier in the season but has only started against them once on July 17th. In that outing Kendrick looked good over a 7-inning course allowing only 1 earned run. Nothing against Kendrick, but I think all Phillies fans are hoping this is his last start for the season and Hamels gets back in the rotation healthy and ready to go for the stretch run as soon as possible. As mentioned before, Pelfrey will take to the hill for the Mets. Pelfrey’s 6-10 record with a 4.61 ERA indicates that this isn’t the best of years for the right-hander. Against the Phillies in three starts he’s 0-1 allowing 17 runs, 16 earned, in 19 innings pitched. The Phillies look to add to those numbers as the series concludes Wednesday.
Offensively the Phillies weren’t terrible, but certainly could have been a lot better in the three games in Washington. Scoring 12 runs in three games isn’t bad and for the pitching the Phillies have, four runs a game shouldn’t be a problem. It wasn’t for the starters, but as alluded to earlier the bullpen surprisingly failed to close the door. They did get homers from Carlos Ruiz and Chase Utley in the series finale and Hunter Pence went deep in Saturday’s win. Noted in the last series preview was Ryan Howard ’s pursuit of his 6th consecutive season with 100+ RBIs. He sat at five RBIs shy of the century mark heading into the Nationals series and only added one to that total in the three games as the Nats seemed to cool him off as he was on a tear previously. However, four more and Howard will hit the plateau. For the Mets, they’re offensive woes have been a big reason for their recent struggles. As mentioned earlier the Mets have lost nine out of their last 11 games. In those nine loses the Mets have scored more than three runs only three times and totaled 30 runs in those nine games, just over three runs a game. Ideally the Mets will stay cold for three more in Philadelphia.
The Nationals series was rough there’s no doubt about it. But the Phillies have not lost a series to the Mets all year and let’s hope that doesn’t start now. The Mets and Phillies have played a couple of one run games this year but the Phillies have still won all four series between the two teams and are 8-4 against the Mets this year, taking two of three from them all four times. The Mets have struggled lately and I wouldn’t expect a couple of rough losses in D.C. to all of a sudden cause for some more losses against a team that statistically is worse than the Nationals this year. Look for the Phillies to get back on track back home these next three games.