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Series Preview: New York Mets vs. Philadelphia Phillies

Fresh off the All-Star Break, the Amazins host their brother-loving rivals from down the turnpike.


What's going on with the Phillies

Pretty much all talk regarding the Phils revolves around the trade deadline and what the team should do about it. At 48-48 and 5½ games out of a Wild Card spot, fans are split on whether the Phillies should be gearing up for another playoff run or trading off assets in order to make the future Phillies stronger. As someone who feels like he has seen this happen before, I think that Philadelphia should sell, sell, sell, but there are plenty of supporters who are holding out hope for this season.

Over at The Good Phight, there's a fun debate about whether or not the Phillies should move their best non-pitching prospect Maikel Franco at the non-waiver deadline. Franco plays third base — which is a position that Philly has struggled to find a long-term solution for — and is batting .378/.398/.622 in 90 Double-A at-bats. Alex Rios and James Shields are among the targets mentioned.

Meanwhile, the Inquirer has numbers for the optimists and the pessimists. On the bright side: The Phillies have the best record in the National League East since April 18 (42-38, one game ahead of Atlanta). For the doom-and-gloomers: The team has a minus-45 run differential and hasn't had one that bad through 96 games since 1997.

Who are these guys?

Darin Ruf is a powerful late-blooming right-handed bat who hit .317/.408/.620 last season as a 26-yard-old at Double-A Reading. He's got the chance for regular playing time in the majors now thanks to Ryan Howard's most recent injury (out until September with knee surgery). Ruf got a hit in his first seven big league games this season, and he capped off the modest streak with a 3-for-4 performance against the White Sox last week. He's already hit two home runs this season in 28 at-bats, so Ruf is a guy to look out for.

John Mayberry has been hanging around the majors for three years now, and it doesn't look like the 29-year-old will ever hit well enough to be a regular at this level. He's a nice right-handed bench bat who is being pressed into full-time duty because of Ben Revere's recent injury (broken foot, out 6-to-8 weeks). What makes Mayberry interesting for this series is that he'll be spending some time playing center field even though he's not really a center fielder. If he were, he'd be a much more valuable player. With Revere hurt, the only other Phillies outfielders are Delmon Young, Domonic Brown, and Laynce Nix. Ruf can play some outfield, too, but the point is that none of these guys have sufficient range to play center, and it could make for some interesting situations on fly balls this weekend.

Who's on the mound?

It should be a fun weekend of baseball, as both the Mets and the Phillies send their top three hurlers to the mound in the first series after the All-Star break. The Harvey vs. Lee match-up on Sunday afternoon is particularly appetizing.

Friday: Kyle Kendrick vs. Jeremy Hefner

Kendrick has never been a guy to blow you away with his strikeout rates (5.34 per nine this season), but he's already booked a career-high 1.4 WAR in 2013 thanks to his ability to log innings and keep the ball on the ground. In two starts this season against the Mets — both in April — Kendrick has performed quite well. On April 10 at Citizens Bank Park, he struck out six batters while walking a pair in six innings. Kendrick allowed two runs on two solo home runs that day, and the Phillies won, 7-3. On April 26 in Flushing, Kendrick tossed a complete game shutout in a 4-0 Philadelphia triumph.

Saturday: Cole Hamels vs. Zack Wheeler

As you might guess, Hamels's 4-11 mark this season, as well as his 4.05 ERA is due to a good deal of bad luck. Compared to last season, when Hamels pitched to a 3.05 ERA and 4.5 WAR, his strikeout rate is down slightly, while his walk rate and BABIP are up slightly. For the most part, he's still the same great pitcher he's always been. Against the Mets this year, Hamels has found mixed results. On April 28 at Citi Field he uncharacteristically walked six batters, but he also struck out eight and only allowed two hits in six innings. More recently, on June 21 in Philadelphia, the Mets were able to score four runs in six innings against Hamels during a 4-3 New York win.

Sunday: Cliff Lee vs. Matt Harvey

You're not going to believe this, but Lee is having another terrific season. The man's walk rate has been under two per nine since 2007, and while his strikeout rate has slowly declined over the past three seasons, it's still good enough to allow Lee to get lots of outs and pitch lots of innings. The home run ball can occasionally be a problem for Lee, but he was doing a great job of shooing it away in 2013 until the Nationals hit him up for four long ones in his last start before the break. The Mets have had the good fortune to only face Lee once this season. In that start, back on April 9, Lee struck out six batters and walked none in an 8-3 Phillies win.

What about some GIFs?

The Mets and Phillies last met in late June. Here's a visual reminder of that series.

David Wright slides into Chase Utley's junk

Two minutes of hate with Jimmy Rollins

Matt Harvey strikes out Ben Revere with 100 MPH heat