The Mets and Phillies get ready to face off for the first time in 2011 when they play a three-game set in Philadelphia starting Tuesday. While Jose Reyes, David Wright, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins all return for this year’s rivalry, both teams sport quite a different look from the squads that took the field in 2007. Unlike previous editions, this year’s Mets team does not have any easy outs in the lineup. And while the back end of the rotation for the Phillies used to be a big question mark, this year’s team has four aces and a #3 SP.
The opening game of the series features an interesting matchup between Cole Hamels and Chris Young. Hamels has been one of the best pitchers in baseball the past four-plus years but the Mets have been his personal Kryptonite. He has a 2-8 lifetime record against the Mets, including an 0-4 mark last year. Hamels has not pitched bad against New York. Last year he had four losses despite allowing just 10 runs.
On the other side of the ledger is Young, who is coming off a tremendous Spring where he allowed just 5 ER in 25.1 IP for a 1.78 ERA. In many ways Young will go a long way in determining how well the Mets do in 2011. Can he stay healthy and pitch in 150 or more innings? And if he is able to stay healthy, can he continue his strong pitching, which dates back to last September with the Padres. After coming off the DL, Young made three starts and gave up 2 ER in 14 IP.
One thing to watch for in this game is the long ball. In 2009, the Phillies led the National League with 224 HR and last year they finished fifth in the league with 166. This year, missing Chase Utley and Jayson Werth from their lineup, they have just 2 HR. Can Philadelphia recapture its home run abilities with Young, an extreme fly ball pitcher on the mound?
Last year the Mets did quite well in keeping the Phillies in the park. Mets pitchers allowed just 13 HR to the Phillies in 18 games. For a comparison, Philadelphia batters smacked 25 HR in 18 games against the Nationals.
When the Phillies hit a HR last year versus the Mets, they were 6-2. When the Mets kept the Phillies in the ballpark, Philadelphia was just 3-7. If the Mets have serious designs on competing with the Phillies, the task is to stay away from the gopher ball.
The Phillies have captured the past four National League East titles so the perception among many is they are the Mets’ biggest rivals. There’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s also another perception, that the Phillies have owned the Mets in the past four years and that is simply not true.
From 2007-2010, the Phillies have won 371 games while the Mets have 326 victories. In head-to-head games, the Mets are 32-40 against the Phillies. Everyone remembers the disastrous head-to-head matchups down the stretch in 2007, but the Mets were 11-7 against the Phillies in 2008 and were 9-9 last year.
Essentially the on-field results between the Mets and Phillies the past four years is right about where you would expect it to be given the overall record of the two teams. Here’s hoping the Mets can dominate the series with the Phillies this season and use these games as a springboard towards a playoff berth.