What's going on with the Phillies?
The Phils were riding high before their last date with the Mets, and their 6-1 loss on April 29 didn't seem to disrupt the team's momentum. Philadelphia kept the good times alive with a series win over Washington, but then Toronto came to down and knocked the Phils down a notch.
J.A. Happ (remember, pronounced "Jay") somehow kept his former team off the board in the first game despite walking four batters and striking out two in five innings. The second game saw the Phillies overcome a poor Cole Hamels start and rally to erase a 5-0 deficit, but they fell in the 10th inning when Juan Francisco hit a sac fly off of Antonio Bastardo.
The Toronto leg of the four-game set didn't see Philly fare much better. The Blue Jays bombarded them with 22 runs in the final two games, which probably makes Philly fans happy to see a Mets team that hasn't scored a run since Monday night.
While New York has called up Wilmer Flores to try to give the team a kick in the rear end, the Phils are calling up Reid Brignac to... well... he's hit pretty well in the International League this year! Sure, there's no guarantee that Flores hits well, either, but at least he's supposed to be part of the Mets' future.
Who are these guys?
Cody Asche was drafted by the Phillies out of the University of the Nebraska in the fourth round of the 2011 draft. He's zoomed through the system pretty quickly and is set to become the team's third baseman of the future. The only problem is that the left-handed Asche hasn't shown he can hit left-handed pitching in the majors yet. This season, he's only been allowed to face lefties 15 times and has been caddied for at third base by a mix of Freddy Galvis and Jayson Nix (Galvis was just sent down to make room for Brignac). With a strong veteran starting pitching staff, the Phillies are presently in "compete for the playoffs mode," but if the team fades from the playoff race over the summer, it has got to give Asche a chance to show what he can do in a full-time role.
Luis Garcia was just called up by the Phillies to take the place of struggling veteran Shawn Camp in the bullpen. Like with Asche, it won't hurt Philadelphia to get a little younger in some areas to prepare for a stronger future, but Garcia was a major liability in 31⅓ major league innings last year. The sample featured 23 strikeouts but also a ridiculous 23 walks for Garcia, who, at 27 years old, is a little old to be considered a prospect. Nevertheless, he's only walked four batters in 13⅔ innings with Triple-A Lehigh Valley so far. As one of only four right-handed pitchers in Philly's bullpen, Garcia ought to get a chance to prove that's he's an improved pitcher in 2014.
Who's on the mound?
Formerly known as Fausto Carmona, Hernandez has never had the strikeout or walk rates consistent with those of a front-end starter, but he's been successful in flashes thanks to a two-seam fastball that generates tons of ground balls. The Phillies would have been a better fit for him five or so years ago when Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley had better range, but Hernandez will be fine if he can keep pitching the way he did last Sunday against Washington. On that day he led the Phils to a 1-0 win by allowing just three walks and four hits in 7⅓ innings.
Mejia could use an outing like that in the near future. After a pair of subpar starts, we've heard critics say that perhaps the young righty could better serve the Mets out of the bullpen. For him to avoid such a fate, he has got to improve his efficiency and work deeper into games.
In our last Phillies series preview from all of a week-and-a-half ago, we discussed how Kendrick is getting a lot of ground balls but also allowing a lot of home runs. Those trends haven't changed since the 29-year-old right-hander was scheduled to pitch against the Mets on April 30. The rainout that day allowed for the Phils to skip Kendrick in the rotation, and when his turn came again, he threw a quality start in a loss to the Blue Jays. Kendrick allowed another home run to push his home-run-to-fly ball rate to a career-high 14.6 percent, but at least this time it made sense thanks to a season-high 14 fly balls allowed. The high amount of flies is probably a blip, so if Kendrick's home run rate normalizes, he can continue to be a nice, affordable back-end starter for the Phillies until he finally hits free agency at the end of the season.
Speaking of nice, affordable pitchers, Gee hasn't allowed a run in either of his past two starts. His scoreless innings streak is starting to rival that of the Mets' offense! Before you throw a tomato at me, remember that Gee could be an important trade chip for the Mets in the not-too-distant future if the team's pitching prospects continue to develop swimmingly. If he keeps pitching like this, though, he could be looking at a long-term contract offer instead.
Sunday: Cole Hamels vs. Jon Niese
This is a rematch of the only Mets vs. Phillies game to take place this season. Despite the rainy whether in Philadelphia, it was a very pleasant experience for the Metsies. Niese was in complete control, allowing just five batters to reach base in seven innings. The only run against him came on a home run from old friend Marlon Byrd. Meanwhile, the Amazin' offense was just that, putting up six runs on Hamels in four-and-two-thirds innings for a 6-1 win. Even Ruben Tejada got in on the action with a double, a single, and a pair of rib-eye steaks (rib-eye cheese steaks?).
Since that game on April 29, Hamels got lit up again against Toronto, allowing ten hits and five runs in six innings. He'll be looking to get on track this Sunday against a Mets team that has tormented him throughout his career. Niese, on the other hand, continued to be one of baseball's most underrated players last Monday. In a park that is giving the National League fits this season, he shut out the Marlins for seven innings before Daisuke Matsuzaka came in and let the Mets' 3-0 lead go to waste.
Prediction: The Mets take advantage of the back of Philly's rotation and get the offense going again. Two wins here for New York.
What about some GIFs?
In the Mets' only game versus the Phillies this year, Jon Niese twirled a gem, allowing one run over seven innings. Here he is freezing Ben Revere with a cutter.
That Phanatic sure is mischevous, isn't he? Watch as he silly strings Phillies radio broadcaster Larry Andersen on Andersen's birthday.
The Byrd Man is just as awesome as you remember him, hitting .317/.348/.516 and making catches like this one.