After earning a series split at Wrigley Field, he New York Mets (37-41) will face off with the floundering Philadelphia Phillies (39-38) four four games at Citizen’s Bank Park. The two squads squared off in April, with the Mets losing two out of three in Philadelphia and rebounding to take two out of three at home.
The Mets were five outs away from an uplifting series victory against the Chicago Cubs, but a late-inning letdown by Seth Lugo on Sunday resulted in the team settling for a split. After dropping two out of three at SunTrust Park against the Atlanta Braves, the Mets turned to Walker Lockett in the series opener on Thursday. Things went about how most people outside the organization expected, as Lockett was hit hard for six earned runs in 2.1 innings after being staked to a 3-0 lead. Todd Frazier did connect on his 200th career home run in the losing effort.
The Mets bounced back on Friday with a 5-4 win in a back-and-forth game. After Jason Vargas lasted 4.2 innings, the bullpen turned in one of their better performances of the season with 4.1 scoreless innings from Brooks Pounders, Lugo, and Edwin Diaz. The club got home runs from Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto, and McNeil drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh with a single.
The Mets pounded the Cubs on the Saturday in a 10-2 victory. The team was firing on all cylinders, as Zack Wheeler turned in seven strong innings while the offense pummeled Jose Quintana. Pete Alonso hit another home run—more on Polar Bear Pete later—while Amed Rosario picked up three hits and Frazier added his second home run in three games. McNeil contributed his third multi-hit game of the series, and Wilson Ramos added a two-run home run as well.
The good feelings from the previous game lasted into Sunday with Jacob deGrom on the mound. With the team down 1-0, Alonso again launched a home run to even up the score, and Tomas Nido hit the go-ahead home run one inning later. deGrom, as he’s been known to do in recent years, helped his own cause with a run-scoring single, although he gave one back in the bottom of the fifth. With the team hanging on for dear life, Lugo came in for the seventh and navigated through the inning despite not having his usually effective curveball. Callaway called on him again for the eighth, and things came crashing down soon thereafter. After putting two runners on with one out, Lugo surrendered a three-run home run to Javier Baez before his skipper yanked him in favor of Robert Gsellman. By then, it was far too late, as the Mets wasted another deGrom gem and fell 5-3 in the finale.
Following the Sunday loss, things got heated in the Mets clubhouse, with Callaway got into a shouting match with Newsday reporter Tim Healey after what they perceived as a sarcastic tone in his “see you tomorrow, Mickey” comment, and Vargas came to his skipper’s defense. Frustrations have clearly been boiling over, with the team shooting themselves in the foot on several occasions when it seemed they could get back into the playoff race. As it stands now, the Mets are nine games behind the Braves in the National League East, but only three-and-a-half games out of the second Wild Card spot. Losses like the one they suffered on Sunday made it difficult to envision them as legitimate contenders, even after taking two games against a first-place Cubs club.
The news isn’t all bad for the Mets, as McNeil and Alonso continue to provide hope that the future may be bright in Flushing after all. McNeil earned a day off on Sunday after picking up five consecutive multi-hit games. He now has 28 multi-hit games in 2019—putting him three behind Ketel Marte for the National League league—and a club record 48 in his first 126 career games. McNeil is slashing .361/.378/.569 with a 152 wRC+ and a 0.7 fWAR in the month of June. In 127 games since being called up eleven months ago. McNeil is hitting .335/.394/.483 with a 140 wRC+ and a 4.7 fWAR for the Mets.
Alonso, meanwhile, set a new franchise record on Sunday by connecting on his 27th home run in his rookie campaign. Darryl Strawberry’s mark of 26 home runs stood for 36 years before Alonso crushed it. No Mets rookie had ever hit 27 home runs in their first year, yet Alonso has completed the feat by June 23. In congratulating the team’s first baseman in a statement to the Mets’ P.R. team, Strawberry said, “No goal seems out of reach”, and that certainly seems true as Alonso sets his sights on breaking the club record of 41 home runs in a season. Alonso is now hitting an unbelievable .311/.440/.716 with eight home runs, a .405 ISO, a 199 wRC+, and a 1.3 fWAR in June. And to think there was some debating that the team should leave Alonso in Triple-A to begin the 2019 season.
While things have certainly not been good for the Mets, things have been significantly worse for the Phillies, who have dropped seven straight and 16 of their last 22. They’ve lost almost ten full games in the standings since May 30 and have fallen out of first place. They were swept at home by the last-place Miami Marlins for the first time since 2009.
In that time, the Phillies’ rotation owns a 4.02 ERA and 5.39 FIP with a 1.99 HR/9, a 2.95 BB/9, and a 7.89 K/9. Their bullpen has been even worse, posting an atrocious 6.62 ERA and 6.98 FIP, with a collective -0.8 fWAR in that span. Phillies’ relievers are averaging a league-worst 2.91 HR/9 in the team’s last 22 games, to go along with a 4.63 BB/9 and a 9.00 K/9. Their offense hasn’t been much better, as their club is slashing .240/.320/.412 with a 90 wRC+ since their troubles began. With all these issues, it’s fair to say that second-year manager Gabe Kapler is feeling some heat to turn things around in an effort to save his job.
Bryce Harper has not quite been the game-changing offensive presence that the Phillies had hoped he’d be when they inked him to a 13-year contract over the offseason. In his first half-season in Philadelphia, Harper is hitting .248/.364/.461 with 13 home runs and a 115 wRC+ to go along with a 1.8 fWAR. J.T. Realmuto, who came over in a February trade with the Marlins, is hitting .260/.317/.426 with ten home runs and a team-high 2.5 fWAR. Shortstop Jean Segura has posted a .268/.317/.430 slash line with seven home runs, a 95 wRC+, and a 1.5 fWAR in his first season in Philadelphia.
Monday, June 24: Steven Matz vs. Zach Eflin, 7:05 p.m. on SNY
Matz (2019): 73.2 IP, 74 K, 26 BB, 15 HR, 4.28 ERA, 4.99 FIP, 1.37 WHIP
Matz will return to the scene of his worst career start on Monday night. Earlier this year, the left-hander failed to record an out while yielding eight runs (six earned) in an April start at Citizen’s Bank Park and is looking for significantly better results this time around. In his last start, Matz failed to complete six innings for the first time since his first off the Injured List on May 18, breaking a streak of five consecutive outings in which he pitched six innings. He allowed five earned runs on six hits over five innings, include a pair of two-run home runs to Freddie Freeman and Josh Donaldson. He was bit by control issues, as he walked four and threw just 57% of his 99 pitches for strikes—well below his 65% average on the season. The long ball continues to be an issue for Matz as well this year.
Eflin (2019): 86.0 IP, 73 K, 22 BB, 11 HR, 2.83 ERA, 4.01 FIP, 1.16 WHIP
Just about the only starting pitcher the free-falling Phillies have been able to count on this season has been Eflin. The 25-year-old is trending towards a career-best ERA and WHIP in his fourth major league season and has already matched his career-high in complete games with two this season. In his previous outing, he allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits with seven strikeouts in six innings while picking up the loss to the Nationals. The Mets handled the effective Eflin pretty easily earlier this season at Citi Field, as they scored four earned runs on four hits in four innings to hand him the loss.
Tuesday, June 25: Walker Lockett vs. Jake Arrieta, 7:05 p.m. on SNY
Lockett (2019): 2.1 IP, 2 K, 1 BB, 0 HR, 23.14 ERA, 2.74 FIP, 2.57 WHIP
Lockett will get a second chance to make a good impression after bombing his opening audition. In looking at the final line, it’s easy to forget that Lockett began his evening by retiring the first six Cubs batters he faced. Things completely fell apart in the third, and he managed to record just one out—a sacrifice bunt by opposing pitcher Tyler Chatwood—before Mickey Callaway pulled the plug. In the end, Lockett gave up six earned runs on five hits while recorded seven outs. Despite that, the Mets have tapped the right-hander to start in place of an injured Noah Syndergaard again on Tuesday.
Arrieta (2019): 91.2 IP, 73 K, 37 BB, 15 HR, 4.12 ERA, 5.01 FIP, 1.39 WHIP
Despite putting up cromulent numbers, Arrieta has yet to have a vintage performance this year, although he is coming off one of his better outings of 2019 despite picking up the loss. In the start against the Nationals, he went six innings and was charged with one earned run on a season-low two hits with three strikeouts and one walk. The veteran currently owns the eleventh-worst BB/9 (3.63) and the eighth-worst HR/9 (1.47) among qualified National League starting pitchers. Earlier this season, Arrieta stymied the Mets with eight strong innings to pick up a win at Citi Field on April 17, but was then defeated by that same club five days later at Citizen’s Bank Park while giving up four runs (three earned) in six frames.
Wednesday, June 26: Jason Vargas vs. Nick Pivetta, 7:05 p.m. on SNY
Vargas (2019): 60.0 IP, 47 K, 26 BB, 7 HR, 3.75 ERA, 4.47 FIP, 1.33 WHIP
Vargas failed to pitch into the fifth inning for the second consecutive start—in his previous start, he was lifted for a pinch hitter after suffering a calf cramp during his at-bat—and for the sixth time in six starts in 2019. A high pitch count did him in this time around, as he was already at over 100 pitches when Callaway removed him from the game. A J.D. Davis error in the second resulted in two unearned runs, although he allowed a run-scoring base hit to the opposing pitcher, which didn’t help his cause. Vargas showed some emotions in the fifth, when he clearly got Anthony Rizzo to strike out on a swing-and-miss that also hit him. After the umpires converged and Vargas used some NSFW language, the correct call was made and Rizzo was ruled out on what would be Vargas’s final pitch of the afternoon.
Pivetta (2019): 50.1 IP, 45 K, 15 BB, 12 HR, 5.54 ERA, 5.54 FIP, 1.45 WHIP
Pivetta appeared to be turning a corner at the start of June following a month-long stint in Triple-A, but his last two starts have demonstrated the same level of frustrating inconsistency that plagued him prior to his demotion. He began the month by recording six shutout innings while scattering three hits and striking out a season-high nine batters against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and followed that up by tossing a complete game and allowing one run on six hits with six strikeouts against the Cincinnati Reds. Since then he had a start against the Braves in which he was charged with four earned runs on eight hits over 6.2 innings, and is coming off an outing that saw him give up six earned runs on seven hits with a season-low two strikeouts. It’ll be interesting to see which Pivetta shows up on Tuesday night against the Mets, but it’s impossible to gauge given the up-and-down performances he’s provided his club since the calendar turned to June.
Thursday, June 27: Zack Wheeler vs. Aaron Nola, 1:05 p.m. on SNY
Wheeler (2019): 101.2 IP, 108 K, 29 BB, 14 HR, 4.69 ERA, 3.72 FIP, 1.30 WHIP
After two subpar starts, Wheeler returned to his regular routine of pitching seven innings in his last start against the Cubs. It was a great rebound for Wheeler, who allowed one earned run on five hits with five strikeouts during his strong performance. He barely broke a sweat until the seventh, when he loaded the bases with nobody out before inducing a double play, which pushed across the only run the Cubs would score but limited the damage. Wheeler has now lasted at least seven innings in nine of 16 starts, although Saturday was only the third time this season that he’s yielded two earned runs or less in an outing. On April 23, Wheeler enjoyed his best start of 2019 against the Phillies, which included seven shutout innings on the mound and a solo home run and two-run double at the plate during a stellar all-around performance at Citi Field.
Nola (2019): 89.0 IP, 100 K, 37 BB, 14 HR, 4.55 ERA, 4.38 FIP, 1.45 WHIP
Nola has been frustratingly average for the Phillies after finishing third in the National League Cy Young race and being named to his first All Star team last season. Like Arrieta, Nola ranks near the bottom in BB/9 (3.74) and HR/9 (1.42) among qualified National League starters. He is coming off his best start of 2019, although he still picked up the loss thanks to a quiet night from the offense. Against the Marlins, Nola went a season-long eight innings and surrendered two runs (one earned) on six hits while reaching double-digit strikeouts for only the second time this season. Nola was beat up by the Mets on April 15 to the tune of five earned runs on seven hits over four innings pitched.
Prediction: The Mets earn a series split, with New York winning on Wednesday and Thursday but losing on Monday and Tuesday.
How will the Mets fare in their four game series against the Phillies?
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The Mets send the Phillies spiraling even further with a four-game sweep!
The Mets take three out of four to secure a winning road trip.
The Mets split with the Phillies before heading home.
The Mets steal one but drop three out of four.
The Mets aren’t feeling the love as they’re swept by the woebegone Phillies.