In the last five games the Mets are 4-1 while the Phillies are 0-5. Combined with New York being six games over .500 and Philadelphia nine games under, it’s understandable why the Mets come into their three game-set with the defending NL East champs almost a bit cocky. Josh Thole is shooting to go 5-1 in the six games remaining before the All-Star break, which would winning at least two out of three against the Phillies.
Jonathon Niese takes the hill in the series opener, the fourth time this season he has squared off against the Phillies. Niese threw 6.2 scoreless against Philadelphia and picked up the win on April 14th but has no-decisions in his last two outings against the club. The Mets also won the second game Niese started (5-2) but the Phillies won the last time they faced him. On May 28th, Niese allowed 4 ER in 5 IP but escaped with a no-decision in the team’s 8-4 loss.
The no-decision was a rare poor outing for Niese here recently. In his last seven games, the big lefty has gone 4-1 with a 2.35 ERA. In 46 IP, he’s struck out 46 batters, allowed 12 walks and five homers. He’s got a 3.8 K/BB ratio while fanning a batter per inning. Niese’s success is not a case where the hits just aren’t falling in – he’s got a .301 BABIP in the span. Instead, he is doing everything you hope a pitcher would do.
In the no-decision against the Phillies, Niese allowed 5 BB in 5 IP. In five games since then – against the Cardinals, the Yankees (2X), Reds and Cubs – Niese has surrendered just 5 BB in 33.1 IP. The base on balls has been an excellent barometer for how well he has pitched this season. In games where he has a BB/9 of 3.0 or fewer, Niese is 5-1. His only loss came when he allowed a first-inning, 3-run homer to Jay Bruce in a game where he tossed 7 IP and gave up 1 BB.
The Phillies come into Tuesday night’s game ranked 14th in the National League with 204 walks, 72 behind the first-place Mets in the category. They are middle of the pack versus southpaws, as they rank eighth in the league with a .711 OPS versus LHP. One thing they perform quite well in is homers versus lefties. They rank second in the league with 31 HR versus portsiders.
Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz are the Phillies’ two main weapons against lefties. Victorino has a 1.014 OPS versus LHP this year, with 5 HR in 73 ABs. Ruiz has a .982 OPS and 12 RBIs in 63 ABs. John Mayberry and Ty Wigginton also have 5 HR versus southpaws this season, with Mayberry going deep against Niese on May 28th in Philadelphia. Mayberry has had the most success of any active player for the Phillies versus Niese, as he has a 1.077 OPS with 3 HR and 7 RBIs in 22 ABs.
Niese has displayed no great home/road split this season but has not fared particularly well in Citizens Bank Park throughout his career. Lifetime, he’s 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA in seven starts in Philadelphia.
If Niese wins tonight, it’ll be his third straight win and the victory will be his fifth in his last six decisions. If history holds, Niese should continue to have success limiting walks. He’ll need only to come up with a new plan for Mayberry to earn his seventh win of the season.