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Series Preview: Phillies vs. Mets

Can the Mets get back to winning now?

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

When the season first started, we heard that for the Mets to make the postseason, they must wins lots of games against the Phillies and Braves. So far, that has been one part of the season that has gone well. New York is a combined 9-3 against their struggling adversaries, and there are even some wins over Miami to boot.

The problem has been the games against everyone else. During their recent tour of the National League Central, the Mets went 4-10 with an offense that scored two or fewer runs in eight games. It appears that now they need the Phillies more than ever. This is the same team that sparked the Mets during their 11-game April win streak and then helped them find their footing after a rough series versus Washington.

Can New York once again right the ship with some wins over Philly? The situation is more dire than ever considering how dreadful the club looked in Pittsburgh. If the Mets don't at least take two of three, the editorials will really start to get ugly.

Is Ryan Howard good again?

Maybe? Dude has been on a tear lately, with six extra-base hits (three home runs) in his last four games. For the season, he's batting .268/.314/.550 and is a big part of why Philadelphia has looked like a fully functional baseball team of late.

Can this continue? Howard is striking out in 27 percent of his at-bats, but that's on par with what he's done his whole career. The five-percent walk rate is a little more concerning, but that's more than compensated for by a .282 ISO that Howard hasn't topped since 2009. Power is in high demand these days, so that kind of mark stands out even in just two months of at-bats.

That slugging isn't doing any good, however, if the Phillies hold on to Howard so they can win 75 games rather than 72. If the lefty keeps it up, though, perhaps the club can deal him to a contender. That's a possibility if the Phillies are willing to eat a lot of the $60 million that their slugger is owed through the end of 2016.

Suddenly, third base is a question mark

The Mets don't have great organizational depth at third base, but that hasn't been a huge problem until recently, when a seemingly benign David Wright hamstring injury turned into a spine issue that has the All-Star sidelined indefinitely. Nowadays the lack of production coming from whomever the Mets have tried at third base is less of a temporary annoyance and more of a big problem.

None of the players that the Mets have put at the hot corner have inspired much confidence that the team can improve on offense. Eric Campbell has shown solid plate discipline but is being killed by BABIP, Ruben Tejada is striking out too much for someone with so little pop, and Danny Muno doesn't project to be anything more than a future utility player.

Nevertheless, Muno is being called up for a second shot at the big leagues and Tejada could be getting an extended look as the everyday third baseman. If those moves don't work out and Wright doesn't return soon, the front office might have to look outside the organization for help.

Who is Severino Gonzalez?

Even at the start of the season, the Phillies didn't have a lot of rotation depth. It's been cool for them that Aaron Harang is off to another great start and that Cole Hamels is finally coming around, but this is still a team that gives the ball to Sean O'Sullivan every fifth day and struggles to keep opponents off the scoreboard when the back of the rotation is on tap.

And that was before both Chad Billingsley and David Buchanan went down with injuries. Those unfortunate events forced Gonzalez into the rotation, and he hasn't been too bad thus far... if you discount his disastrous debut in which he allowed seven runs to St. Louis in fewer than three innings.

Signed as an international free agent out of Panama in 2011, Gonzalez was Philly's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2013 when he threw for a 2.00 ERA and 1.02 WHIP while pitching mostly at High-A Clearwater. Since he hit Double-A, though, Gonzalez's strikeout rate has dipped considerably. He's more of a command guy now with just five strikeouts per nine in five starts at Triple-A Lehigh Valley this year.

As you can see above, Gonzalez recently held the Rockies to one run in five innings at Coors Field, but he didn't get many ground balls or even record single strikeout. Tricks like that might work once or twice (even in Denver), but sooner or later the chickens come home to roost. Hopefully they'll be roosting at Citi Field this afternoon.

Date Time Television Phillies Probable Starter Mets Probable Starter
May 25, 2015 1:10 PM SNY Severino Gonzalez Bartolo Colon
May 26, 2015 7:10 PM SNY Jerome Williams Jacob deGrom
May 27, 2015 1:10 PM SNY Sean O'Sullivan Noah Syndergaard

With the other two pitching matchups also in New York's favor, it's not too hard to imagine a sweep, but then again, the Mets just haven't hit at all recently.

Prediction: Mets win two out of three.

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