I’m not sure if it ever made much sense to have Jay Bruce on the Mets, but I’m going to miss him regardless. The former Reds outfielder is having one of his best ever offensive seasons and could easily set a career high in home runs if he keeps going on this pace. For Bruce, the beat goes on in Cleveland for an Indians team that was lacking power at the corner outfield spots. Meanwhile, Terry Collins no longer has to worry about shuffling his outfield in New York.
Starting on Thursday night, the Mets are in Philadelphia for a four-game set with a Phillies team that still feels like it needs at least one more year of rebuilding. Some pieces of a future contender are starting to fall into place, but there are still a lot of spots on the roster that could use improvement. The good news is that Odubel Herrera is playing some of his best baseball of the season. He’s riding a 12-game hitting streak and ripped off two triples and a home run in Philadelphia’s recent two-game sweep in Atlanta. On Wednesday, Herrera became the first Phillies player since Lenny Dykstra to hit triples in his first two plate appearances of a game (thanks, Elias Sports Bureau).
Phillies skipper Pete Mackanin batted Herrera third on Wednesday with Daniel Nava out of the lineup, but usually the Venezuelan center fielder hits lower down in the order. Herrera seems like a better fit for the No. 2 spot than Freddy Galvis, but you know how managers can be with their lineups. Mackanin seems committed to batting Cesar Hernandez and Galvis at the top of the order while shuffling around the other seven hitters.
Another outfielder who is making some noise lately is the rookie Nick Williams, who made his big league debut against the Mets back on June 30. With a pair of three-hit games this month, Williams is hitting .289/.333/.529 for the season, but his strikeout and walk rates in the minors leagues never screamed “major league slugger.” If Williams’s BABIP drops down to around .300, he’s not going to be getting on base an at acceptable level.
The Mets, of course, have an exciting rookie of their own, but Amed Rosario has not impressed at the plate so far. Despite hitting two triples in the Colorado series, the neophyte is hitting just .179/.179/.321 through his first eight games with 11 strikeouts and zero walks. There’s nothing to be concerned about yet (don’t tell the beat writers), but this is another example of how Pacific Coast League numbers can be misleading. If Rosario had been playing in the International League all summer, fans might not have been clamoring for him as much as they were. The 21-year-old might be ready for the majors, but he wasn’t going to turn this failed campaign around if he was brought up in May.
Roario might have a better time hitting late in the game this weekend with Philadelphia having traded away two of its best relief pitchers in Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit. Hector Neris should perform well as the team’s closer, but the bridge to him has a lot of uncertainty with Luis Garcia and newcomer Jesen Therrien struggling recently.
New York’s bullpen hasn’t been much better lately — the once-promising Josh Smoker has been particularly dreadful — so we could be in for a wild finish or two over these next four days in Philadelphia. Although Hansel Robles had issues pitching in Colorado, he continues to be the guy to watch when it comes to setup man of the future.
Thursday, August 10: Jacob deGrom vs. Vince Velasquez, 7:05 p.m. on SNY
deGrom: 144.2 IP, 170 K, 46 BB, 21 HR, 3.36 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 1.17 WHIP
deGrom only lasted five innings against the Dodgers in his last outing, marking the first time since June 6 that he failed to throw six frames. Los Angeles has one of the deepest lineups in the league, so there’s nothing to be alarmed about as New York’s ace prepares for his third start against Philadelphia this year. In 13 innings, deGrom has let the Phillies score just three runs in 2017.
Velasquez: 71.0 IP, 67 K, 33 BB, 14 HR, 4.82 ERA, 5.34 FIP, 1.46 WHIP
Velasquez has been more effective on the mound since recovering from an elbow injury that held him out of June and most of July. In the four starts since his return from the disabled list, the 25-year-old has a 3.00 ERA in 21 innings, but walks continue to be an issue for him. In his latest outing at Colorado, Velasquez escaped with just two runs allowed despite laboring through five frames with 96 pitches and six walks.
Friday, August 11: Seth Lugo vs. Nick Pivetta, 7:05 p.m. on SNY
Lugo: 63.1 IP, 44 K, 16 BB, 10 HR, 4.55 ERA, 4.66 FIP, 1.34 WHIP
With two home runs allowed in each of his last three starts, Lugo might not be looking forward to pitching at Citizens Bank Park, even if the Phillies don’t hit the ball over the wall too often. As a fly-ball pitcher who doesn’t miss many bats, Lugo has got to do a better job using his curveball to keep hitters off balance. That way, he’ll have an easier time attacking the strike zone with his mediocre fastball.
Pivetta: 84.0 IP, 84 K, 35 BB, 17 HR, 5.89 ERA, 5.13 FIP, 1.43 WHIP
As the prize that Philadelphia received in the Jonathan Papelbon trade, Pivetta doesn’t need to do much to make the deal feel like it was worth it. However, the Phillies would probably like if he did a little more for them than what he’s doing in his debut season. The Canadian right-hander has shown his potential in spots, but he’s also given up home runs in bunches and most recently failed to finish the third inning while surrendering eight runs in Colorado.
Saturday, August 12: Steven Matz vs. Aaron Nola, 7:05 p.m. on PIX11
Matz: 57.2 IP, 43 K, 15 BB, 11 HR, 5.77 ERA, 4.96 FIP, 1.51 WHIP
The nightmare campaign for Matz continued on Sunday as the lefty gave up five runs in five-and-one-third innings against the Dodgers. It’s been more than a month since Matz has earned a quality start, but at least this time he struck out seven batters and got some ground balls. In fact, Matz was perfect in the three full innings he threw that didn’t include any runs. Sure, that’s a big qualifier, but it’s something to build on nevertheless.
Nola: 112.1 IP, 117 K, 33 BB, 10 HR, 3.12 ERA, 3.12 FIP, 1.18 WHIP
Philadelphia’s massive rebuild hasn’t gone as smoothly as the franchise might have liked, but at least it has its ace in Nola. The Louisiana State product is working on a streak of nine straight starts with fewer than three runs allowed, and that includes his most recent studly performance at Colorado. Nola’s 2017 figures are surprisingly similar to the ones he posted a year ago when he had a 4.78 ERA, but this time around he’s been more fortunate with strand rate and BABIP.
Sunday, August 13: Chris Flexen vs. Zach Eflin, 1:35 p.m. on SNY
Flexen: 11.2 IP, 8 K, 8 BB, 4 HR, 8.49 ERA, 8.80 FIP, 2.14 WHIP
The youngster wasn’t great on Tuesday, but he lasted five-and-two-thirds innings and came away with his first major league win against Texas. Although Flexen walked three more batters and has still not made a start without giving up a home run, he did get some of those ground balls that made him so successful at Binghamton this year. With the Mets continuing to trade veterans away, it looks like Flexen will get to work out his struggles as part of the big league rotation.
Eflin: 54.0 IP, 28 K, 10 BB, 12 HR, 5.67 ERA, 5.82 FIP, 1.39 WHIP
Eflin hasn’t had a lot of success in the majors or at Triple-A Lehigh Valley this year, but he made a statement on Tuesday in his first big league opportunity since May. In the start against Atlanta, the 23-year-old threw seven innings with three strikeouts, one walk, and two runs allowed. As an extreme contract pitcher, Eflin is often at the mercy of his BABIP. However, even with a .261 mark in 63.1 innings last year, he still suffered a 5.54 ERA.
Prediction: Mets win three of four.
How will the Mets fare in Philadelphia this weekend?
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We don’t need Bruce to sweep the Phillies!
Win two of three.
Win one of three.