2017 Series Preview

Series Preview: New York Mets (3-3) at Philadelphia Phillies (3-3), April 10-12

mets_logo.gifThe Mets and Phillies begin their season series as part of a four-way tie for first place in the NL East. It’s too early for that to mean anything, but the Phillies played well enough against the Nationals over the weekend to hopefully muster out rekindling their rivalry with the Mets, who have been a class above the Phillies over the past few seasons.

What to expect

After nearly mounting a comeback from a 7-0 deficit against the Nationals on Friday (ultimately falling 7-6), the Phillies took the final two games of the series, including a 17-3 shellacking of Washington on Saturday and a nail-biter on Sunday that featured the Phils’ first walk-off win of 2017. They’ll want to carry that run-scoring and timely hitting into a series against the Mets’ much-admired rotation.

The Mets, meanwhile, lost their weekend series to the Marlins. Their offense has been woeful in the early goings, falling to 28th in wOBA (.265), 29th in wRC+ (64), and 25th in runs scored.

The Mets’ starting pitching has been as advertised in their first two series, so the Phillies will hope those struggles at the plate continue as it won’t be easy to score runs of their own.

Starters

Monday at 7:05 p.m., Jacob deGrom vs. Jerad Eickhoff

In his first start of the season, deGrom threw six scoreless innings and allowed only two hits and a walk. His most recent start against the Phillies was even more impressive — he threw a 1-hit shutout.

Eickhoff started the season with a strong start of his own, retaining his reputation as a model of consistency. In 6 2/3 innings, he allowed two runs and struck out six.

Tuesday at 7:05 p.m., Matt Harvey vs. Clay Buchholz

Matt Harvey, recipient of a fantastic nickname he doesn’t deserve, is looking to make 2017 a bounce-back year. After posting ERAs of 2.73 or under in his first 3 seasons, Harvey’s issues with injuries and effectiveness led to a 4.86 ERA a year ago. His first start of 2017 was promising – he went 6 2/3 and gave up a pair of earned runs – but his velocity was diminished from prior seasons. That does not preclude success for him by any means, but it is something to watch as he looks to regain health and success.

PITCHf/x recorded only 1.3 percent of his pitches in his first start as four-seam fastballs, with an extreme uptick in two-seam and slider usage compared to previous years.

Buchholz has a lot to prove this year, too, and his first start showed what can optimistically be called “room for improvement.” He lasted a mere five innings against a weak Reds team, allowing four runs.

Wednesday at 7:05 p.m., Zack Wheeler vs. Vincent Velasquez

Zack Wheeler being billed as the forgotten young talent of the Mets’ rotation shows how stacked it is. Wednesday will be only his second start since 2014, after which Tommy John surgery and a flexor strain derailed two full seasons for him.

The question for Wheeler has been control and whether he can minimize walks and keep guys off the bases. But, despite only allowing a single walk in his season debut, he also gave up five runs in four innings.

Continuing the freakishness in these pitching matchups, Wheeler goes against Vincent Velasquez, whose season debut wasn’t much better than Wheeler’s. One doesn’t usually associate 10-strikeout games with being pulled after 4 innings, but that’s exactly what happened to Vinny from Philly. So far, he remains a pitcher of extremes— extreme talent, extreme ability, extreme stuff, extreme potential, extreme frustration.

News and notes

– Jeremy Hellickson left Sunday’s start with arm numbness. While it’s reportedly not a concern, David Murphy explores who might be called up if he needs to miss time.

– Jeanmar Gomez blew another save in Sunday’s win against the Nationals, leading to anticipation of bullpen roles being shuffled.

– Rookie catcher Andrew Knapp recorded his first major league hit in the same game— against veteran pitcher Stephen Strasburg.

– While Bryce Harper might be on his way out of town, Ryan Lawrence is considering whether Philadelphia might be a fit for him when he’s a free agent— after 2018.

– A new episode of the Phillies Nation podcast is available for download! It recounts one of the best innings we’ve seen the Phillies have, an interview with stadium announcer Dan Baker, and chatting about what Brett Myers is up to these days.

 

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