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Mets look to strike back against Phillies as road trip continues

After dropping two of three to the Phillies in Queens, the Mets will try to take those games back on the road.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It only took two weeks, but the Mets finally claimed their first series victory of the 2016 campaign with a convincing 6-0 win over Cleveland on Sunday. Now it's off to Philadelphia for a date with the team that took two of three games in Queens during New York's first home series of the season.

Not much has changed for the Phillies since the last time we saw them. They are at the bottom of the National League in runs scored with less than three per game. Outside of Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco, and the occasional Ryan Howard home run (he has four already in 2016), there is not much going on for the Philly offense. The club is still waiting for someone in its corner outfield rotation of doom to stand out. So far, Peter Bourjos, Cedric Hunter, Tyler Goeddel, and Darin Ruf are providing very little value.

Date Time Television Mets Probable Starter Phillies Probable Starter
April 18, 2016 7:05 PM SNY Noah Syndergaard Jerad Eickhoff
April 19, 2016 7:05 PM SNY Logan Verrett Vince Velasquez
April 20, 2016 7:05 PM SNY Bartolo Colon Jeremy Hellickson

That's not very surprising, though, as we know all of those guys have a good chance to be replacement-level players. So how did the Phillies win three of four versus San Diego and steal a win from Washington to go 4-3 in their last seven games? That young pitching is not-so-gradually morphing into a formidable rotation. Aaron Nola, whom the Mets miss again, has 23 strikeouts and three walks in 19 innings despite a 5.68 ERA. Jerad Eickhoff, the youngster from the Texas organization who looked decent against the Mets in his 2016 debut, just blanked the Padres over seven innings with nine strikeouts and no walks.

Those guys look like chumps, however, compared to Vince Velasquez. He's the right-hander who Philly got in the Ken Giles trade last December. It turns out the six scoreless frames he threw against the Mets on April 9 may have not been a fluke. He followed that up with an incredible 16 strikeouts last Thursday in a complete game shutout over San Diego. The 23-year-old whose control has been an issue during his pro career also managed to walk zero batters in that game.

Yes, it's still early, but the Phillies appear to have some young arms to challenge those of the Mets in their battles this year. The good news is that the New York lineup finally did what we wanted it to do over the weekend and scored some gosh darn runs. And how about that Michael Conforto? The sweet-swinging lefty has done nothing but surpass expectations since showing up in the big leagues last summer, and he was recently promoted to the third spot in the batting order by manager Terry Collins.

Perhaps Conforto will cool off when the Mets begin to see more left-handed pitching, but with three right-handed starters on the hill for Cleveland, he went 5-for-12 with four extra-base hits. Now there are three more right-handers on tap in this series for Conforto to continue his rise to stardom.

Another Mets player who heated up in Cleveland was Curtis Granderson. The veteran outfielder hadn't been getting on base all too often, but over the weekend he notched three extra base hits and just two strikeouts in three games. Sure, that one triple got lost in the sun, but it was still hit the other way with authority. Seems legit to me.

If the New York bats can continue to stay warm as the weather heats up, perhaps the Mets can do more than even up their season series with Philadelphia. That Velasquez is nasty, though.

Prediction: Mets win two of three.

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