When a team is in rebuilding mode as obviously as the Phillies are, it’s easy to forget that a lot of the players in the clubhouse are competitors who aren’t just satisfied with showing up, playing hard, and collecting their paychecks. Even when the front office is more focused on the future, players want to win, and that’s why the comments made by Freddy Galvis after Philadelphia lost a third game in a row at Arizona last Monday shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
We don’t hear a lot about leadership from this young Phillies team, but Galvis sure sounded like a good leader with his quotes. It doesn’t matter if the fans, media, and even the actions by the front office say otherwise; Galvis believes in his guys, and that makes Philadelphia seem a little more dangerous than they were a week ago. It also helps that the squad went on to win its next two games against Seattle in storybook fashion. It will be up to the Mets to remind the Phillies that they’re still a long way from competing with the big boys.
Since being humbled by Los Angeles last week, the Mets have played like big boys with wins in five of six games in San Francisco and Miami to finish their road trip with a 5-5 record. This three-game home series against Philly is a chance to build some more momentum before the club heads on the road again for six games against Washington and St. Louis before the All-Star break.
Two players that have been particularly helpful in the past week of solid play are Asdrubal Cabrera and Curtis Granderson. While Cabrera’s defense might hold him back from being traded to a top contender, the veteran infielder is getting it done with the bat since he returned to the lineup last Friday with multiple hits in four of six games. Meanwhile, Granderson continues to surge at the top of the lineup with an extra-base hit in each of his last five games.
The two pending free agents could continue to roll against a Phillies rotation that has been hampered by injuries to Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez. The pitching situation gets a little better in the Philadelphia bullpen, where Pat Neshek has been lights-out as a setup man with just two runs allowed in 30.2 innings. He and Joaquin Benoit are both likely to be traded before the end of July, but for now they’ll give their current club some stability in the seventh and eighth innings.
Stability is something that the Mets would love to have late in games, but Terry Collins is still trying to find reliable options to set up Addison Reed. Two guys to watch this weekend are Josh Edgin and Chase Bradford. Edgin has made three scoreless appearances in a row since being shelled by Los Angeles 10 days ago, and the lefty is going to be key as Collins looks for ways to give Jerry Blevins a break. Meanwhile, Bradford has two scoreless outings in his fledgling major league career. His ability to get ground balls could earn him a larger role on a team that allows far too many home runs.
The good news for New York is that the Phillies don’t hit too many home runs these days. One guy who can hit it out of the park is Aaron Altherr, who is looking like a future All-Star after a 2016 wrist injury appeared to sap him of his power. This year, the 26-year-old outfielder is hitting .283/.353/.529 with 13 home runs, and he’s currently riding a 10-game hitting streak
What’s really going to excite Phillies fans about this series, though, is the promotion of Nick Williams. The power-hitting outfielder is currently one of the team’s top prospects and also one of the top prizes in the epic Cole Hamels trade from two years ago. Williams has hit .280/.328/.511 at Triple-A this season and should slot into the starting lineup right away with Daniel Nava or Odubel Herrera being relegated to the bench.
To make room for Williams, Philadelphia is placing Howie Kendrick on the disabled list to rest his hamstring injury. That will make room at second base for former Met Ty Kelly to get some playing time.
Friday, June 30: Ben Lively vs. Jacob deGrom, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Lively: 32.1 IP, 11 K, 8 BB, 4 HR, 3.90 ERA, 4.99 FIP, 1.36 WHIP
The aforementioned Philadelphia pitching injuries have forced the team to start a number of young hurlers that you might not have heard of before. One of those guys is Ben Lively, who was snatched from Cincinnati in exchange for Marlon Byrd before the 2015 season. The 25-year-old has done a great job this season of limiting walks at Triple-A and in the majors, but with the big club he’s not missing a lot of bats. In fact, two of Lively’s five major league starts have featured zero strikeouts at all. One of those was his most recent outing in Arizona in which he allowed five runs (four earned) in five-and-one-third innings.
deGrom: 97.0 IP, 113 K, 37 BB, 14 HR, 3.71 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 1.27 WHIP
After another dominant outing in San Francisco, deGrom now has three straight starts with at least eight innings pitched and exactly one run allowed. That’s the kind of production Collins wants to see, since I can’t imagine he likes answering questions about his bullpen usage every night. deGrom’s most recent performance was especially pleasing because he only walked one batter, and that allowed him to get through eight frames on just 101 pitches.
Saturday, July 1: Jeremy Hellickson vs. Zack Wheeler, 4:10 p.m. on SNY
Hellickson: 90.0 IP, 45 K, 25 BB, 16 HR, 4.40 ERA, 5.48 FIP, 1.26 WHIP
It’s rare to see a 30-year-old’s strikeout rate collapse the way Hellickson’s has this year, but his 4.50 strikeouts per nine innings this season is well below his 6.62 career average. That drop led to an ugly May in which the Iowa native allowed 24 earned runs compared to just 13 strikeouts in six games. June has been friendlier to Hellickson, though, and he’s back on the horse with 11 strikeouts, two walks, and two runs allowed in his last two outings against St. Louis and Arizona.
Wheeler: 66.1 IP, 61 K, 29 BB, 11 HR, 5.29 ERA, 4.86 FIP, 1.54 WHIP
It’s a good thing that Wheeler is back after a minimal stay on the 10-day disabled list, because if he need more time to recover from biceps tendinitis, it would probably mean another start for Tyler Pill or someone worse. Mets fans are hoping that the tendinitis was the cause for Wheeler’s miserable performance in his two most recent games in which he allowed a total of 15 runs in fewer than four innings. Before that, the Georgia native was looking peachy with a 3.45 ERA.
Sunday, July 2: Nick Pivetta vs. Rafael Montero, 1:10 p.m. on SNY
Pivetta: 45.0 IP, 49 K, 24 BB, 8 HR, 5.40 ERA, 4.94 FIP, 1.67 WHIP
Snagged from Washington when the Phillies dealt away Jonathan Papelbon, Pivetta earned two separate promotions from Triple-A this year by striking out 37 batters with only two walks in 32 innings with Lehigh Valley. The Canadian right-hander is still striking out more than one batter per inning in the bigs, but his walk rate rockets to 4.80 per nine. Pivetta did even worse than that in his last start with five walks and six runs allowed to Arizona in fewer than three innings.
Montero: 32.0 IP, 35 K, 21 BB, 2 HR, 5.63 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 1.94 WHIP
With seven strikeouts, two walks, and one run allowed in five-and-two-thirds innings, Montero’s last start went surprisingly well. He might be starting on Sunday no matter how that game went, but it feels good to have a little confidence in the 26-year-old this time around. He’s shown that he can strike out batters in the majors, so if Montero can continue to cut down that walk rate and let his .406 BABIP come down from the stratosphere, he might still be a useful arm to have around.
Prediction: Mets sweep!
How will the Mets fare this weekend against Philadelphia?
This poll is closed
Get back in the hunt with a sweep!
Win two of three.
Win one of three.
Get on with the trade talk, already.