The New York Mets (69-80) close out their season series against the Philadelphia Phillies (76-72), who are desperately trying to keep their diminished playoff hopes alive. The Mets, who have already taken 10 of 16 games from the Phillies this year, will look to add to that total and, in the process, drop Philadelphia further out of the playoff picture.
The Mets, who had won four consecutive series coming into Boston, saw that streak snapped as they dropped two of three. Things got off to a promising start on Friday night, as the offense knocked around Boston’s bullpen while Noah Syndergaard tossed seven shutout innings in an easy 8-0 victory. However, Boston returned the favor against the Mets’ bullpen on Saturday to hand the team a 5-3 defeat. In the Sunday finale, Jacob deGrom was his usual dependable self across seven innings, but the team fell once again with their ace on the hill.
With the Sunday defeat, the Mets were officially eliminated from contention in the National League East, while their elimination number for the Wild Card dropped to two. Although this has seemingly been a foregone conclusion since the team’s atrocious 5-21 June put any dreams of a playoff berth to bed, it’s still a disappointment for a club that came into the season with postseason aspirations. This will be the second straight year without October baseball after the Mets made it in both 2015 and 2016.
While the season is over, there are no shortage of story lines to follow in the final 13 games. First and foremost, deGrom’s Cy Young chase has taken center stage and has become a top story in baseball. At 8-9, deGrom could become the first pitcher in history to win the award with a losing record. This is entirely possible thanks to his sizable lead over his competition, Max Scherzer and Aaron Nola, in ERA, ERA+, and FIP. Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez won the award in 2010 with a 13-12 record while posting a league-leading 2.27 ERA, which serves as the closest comparison to deGrom strange season.
The Mets also have a solid young core looking to prove that they can be the cornerstone to build a 2019 playoff contender around. After an underwhelming first half following shoulder surgery last September, Michael Conforto has looked more like his 2017 All-Star self in the second half. Since July 20, Conforto is slashing .270/.342/.521 with 14 home runs and a 134 wRC+ in 55 games. He has upped his average on the season to .239 while sporting a respectable .776 OPS to go along with a 114 wRC+ and a 2.3 fWAR.
Brandon Nimmo is also having a solid second half overall, hitting .287/.430/.497 with four home runs and a 160 wRC+ in 42 games. In his first full season as a major league starter, Nimmo ranks fourth in the National League with a .396 on-base percentage and is tied for second with a 148 wRC+ while also sporting the brightest smile in the league.
Amed Rosario, also in his first full season, has picked it up in the second half and is proving himself to be a reliable everyday shortstop as well as a steady leadoff hitter. In the second half, he’s hitting .274/.307/.425 with six home runs and a 101 wRC+ in 50 games. He is especially hot since the middle of August and has raised his batting average by 29 points since August 8.
The young trio, along with the impressive play of rookie Jeff McNeil and the potential of first baseman Peter Alonso, gives the Mets a respectable core of young, controllable players to build around in the coming years. From there, it’s up to the front office to surround them with enough talent and fire power to become serious playoff contenders.
Since losing two out of three at Citi Field earlier this month, the Phillies were swept by the Washington Nationals but rebounded to take two of three from the Miami Marlins. Despite taking the series, Philadelphia has won just four out of 14 games in September and find themselves six-and-a-half games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East. To make matters worse for them, they are five-and-a-half back for the second Wild Card spot and would have to surpass three clubs to steal that spot.
The Phillies see their playoff hopes resting precariously on thin ice despite receiving a Cy Young-worthy season from ace Nola. The club does have the third highest starting pitching ERA (4.52) in the National League in the second half, which has contributed to some of their recent woes. Their offense has also posted the fourth lowest second half batting average (.242) among National League teams. Philadelphia is also one of the poorest defensive teams in baseball, ranking dead last with a staggering -122 DRS on the season.
Monday, September 17: Zack Wheeler vs. Jake Arrieta, 7:05 p.m. on SNY
Wheeler (2018): 175.1 IP, 175 K, 52 BB, 14 HR, 3.23 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 1.14 WHIP
Wheeler has been so good as of late that it’s easy to forget that he entered the month of June with a 5.40 ERA. Thanks to a fantastic second half, he has lowered that number by one full run since the All-Star break and two full runs since June 1. In the team’s 13-0 drubbing of the Marlins last Wednesday, Wheeler tossed eight scoreless innings while striking out seven. He even had the chance for a rare “Maddux” complete game, but told Mickey Callaway that he was tired after 89 pitches. In his 10 second-half starts spanning 74 innings, he’s posted a 1.18 ERA and a 2.22 FIP while holding opposing batters to a .175 batting average and .466 OPS. Wheeler now sits at ninth among qualified National League starts with a 3.23 ERA and fifth with a 3.19 FIP.
Arrieta (2018): 159.2 IP, 127 K, 52 BB, 19 HR, 3.66 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 1.24 WHIP
Arrieta hasn’t had the best of second halves as he’s seen his ERA rise by almost a full half-run since July 20. His 3.66 ERA and his 4.24 FIP are his highest in a season since 2013. He’s given up three earned runs or more in five of his last six starts. In his last outing against the Nationals on September 11, he gave up three earned across five innings and did not factor in the decision. This will be Arrieta’s third time facing the Mets in 2018. Oddly enough, he has pitched well in his first two starts (13.1 innings, nine hits, one earned run, 11 strikeouts) but the Phillies have lost both times 3-1.
Tuesday, September 18: Steven Matz vs. Aaron Nola, 7:05 p.m. on SNY
Matz (2018): 140.0 IP, 136 K, 49 BB, 24 HR, 4.18 ERA, 4.64 FIP, 1.24 WHIP
Matz posted another quality start — his third in his last four tries — against the Marlins, going 6.1 innings and allowing three earned runs on three hits. Two of those hits left the park, as the long ball continues to plague Matz in 2018. Among all National League starts, the lefty has given up the sixth most home runs (24) and has the fourth highest HR/9 (1.54). The Phillies will present a challenge for Matz, as they are sixth in the National League with 175 home runs, and Citizens Bank Park is a notoriously home run-hitter friendly park. However, Philadelphia does sport the third-lowest batting average (.231) among National League clubs against left handed pitchers, which could work to Matz’s advantage.
Nola (2018): 193.2 IP, 201 K, 51 BB, 15 HR, 2.42 ERA, 2.97 FIP, 0.97 WHIP
Nola has picked a bad time to have his worst stretch of the season as he looks to make a final push for the Cy Young Award. In his last appearance against the Nationals, Nola was roughed up for four earned runs in five innings. In three September starts, he has given up 11 earned runs in 17.2 innings (5.60 ERA) and has posted a 6.44 FIP. With the race between Nola, Scherzer, and deGrom as close as it is heading into the home stretch of the season, any bad start could be catastrophic. Nola has already faced the Mets five times this year and has has mostly held them in check. In 32 innings against New York, he has allowed seven earned runs (1.97 ERA) and has struck out 37 batters.
Wednesday, September 19: Noah Syndergaard vs. Zach Eflin, 6:05 p.m. on SNY
Syndergaard (2018): 135.1 IP, 138 K, 34 BB, 7 HR, 3.26 ERA, 2.69 FIP, 1.26 WHIP
Syndergaard was sensational in his start against the Red Sox, tossing seven scoreless frames while holding their potent lineup to just three hits. After allowing a career-high 17 base runners in his last outing, he only allowed six against Boston en route to picking up his third win in three September starts. More importantly, he showed no ill effects after taking a line drive to the ribs in his start against the Phillies on September 8 and looked better than ever. He carries a 1.99 September ERA into this start as he looks to build upon his strong second-half and close out the season on a high note. Philadelphia has been one of the few teams to handle Syndergaard this year, as he’s allowed 10 earned runs in 16.1 innings (5.59 ERA) against them.
Eflin (2018): 120.1 IP, 111 K, 31 BB, 16 HR, 4.26 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 1.27 WHIP
Eflin put forth one of his best second-half starts his last time on the mound, as he defeated the Marlins while holding them to one earned run on five hits across 6.1 innings. Eflin has not had the easiest time since the All-Star break, as he has posted a 5.75 ERA and a 5.01 FIP in 10 starts. The Mets have contributed to some of that agita, as he’s allowed 13 earned runs in 14.2 innings (8.24 ERA) in three starts against New York in 2018. In his last outing at Citi Field, he was tagged with six earned runs in just three innings.
Prediction: The Mets will take two out of three against the Phillies.
How will the Mets fare in their three game series against the Phillies?
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Mets end Philly’s playoff dreams with a three game sweep!
Mets take two out of three on their way to D.C.
Mets take a game but lose their second straight series
Mets stumble as they’re swept in Philly
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