Phillies-Mets (Game 7): Must-Know Stuff
Phillies (2-4) vs. New York Mets (4-2)
Roy Halladay (0-1, 13.50 ERA) vs. RHP Matt Harvey (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
First pitch at 7:00 p.m. TV coverage on ESPN.
When you thumbed through the first week of the schedule, you probably had, at worst, the Phillies at .500 through 6 games: allowing for 1 win against the Braves, and 1 loss to the Royals.
So with the first of a 3-game set with the New York Mets in the hopper on Monday, it's worth noting how gloriously close they are to that. Because, you know, because they’ve played just 6 games, and so even a 2-game hole to Atlanta in the National League East – even they’re 4th in the division – isn’t killer.
But these Mets won’t make for an easy out. Between 2009-11? Maybe, with the Phils going 32-22 overall and 18-9 at Citizens Bank Park, ground-zero for the season series opener.
Last year, sans Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Roy Halladay and even Cliff Lee for lengthy stretches and with the Mets first wave of minor league promise trickling in, the Phillies dropped 8 of 18 overall, and 7 of 9 on their home turf.
So far, the Mets have opened with two favorable draws: the Padres and Marlins, both at home. Of the starters the Phils will see this series, just one – tonight’s “Other Guy” – won.
Halladay’s first start of the season, a Game 2 loss in Atlanta, reiterated the point: the 15-year vet’s self-admitted reinvention has yet to take.
Though his fastball clocked 92 m.p.h. a few times in the first inning, Halladay, who at his best used to couple uncanny command with good-enough power, turned primarily to his off-speed stuff – with poor results. He was shelled for 5 earned runs and 2 home runs in just 3 1/3 innings, and needed 40 pitches to get through that first frame, his most in a first inning since 2007.
It was much of what we saw in Clearwater, where he was mushed for a 2-1 mark and 6.06 ERA in 6 Grapefruit League starts – his last 3 outings being particularly troublesome.
Though he’s flashed glimpses of the potential waiting if he arrives – he logged 9 of 10 outs by strikeout, making for inarguably the most bizarre start for anyone ever – it’s no sure thing that he ever will. This, the 2013 prospects of a $20 million asset.
In his first 2 seasons as a Phillie, Halladay all but branded the Mets with his initials: 7 starts, 7 team wins, 5 quality, 2 complete games, 1 shutout, for a 7-0 mark and 1.67 ERA.
Even last year, as a back problem became a shoulder problem and ultimately a results problem (and 7-week DL stint), in just one start, Halladay gutted out 7 solid innings of 2 earned run ball with 7 strikeouts and just 1 walk in a no-decision, 5-2 team loss on May 7.
The Phillies would be more than happy with that tonight.
Against Halladay, Mets captain, third baseman and $192 million man, David Wright, is a putrid 4 for 24 (.167) with 12 strikeouts (50%) and just 3 extra bases. Catcher John Buck is 4 for 22 (.182), first baseman Ike Davis 5 for 22 with – each with 7 strikeouts.
The Other Guy
Cue to Phillies hitters: Take pitches.
Matt Harvey last year was arguably the toast of second-half minor league callups. The 24-year-old right-hander went just 3-5 in his first 10 big league starts, but with a 2.73 ERA and absurd – brace yourself – 28.6 K%, with 70 strikeouts in 59.1 frames.
But control has been an issue for him: he walked 10.6 percent of batters last year, netting him with a homely 2.67 K/BB ratio.
Of course, that improved this spring. Harvey’s K/BB was 3.75 – to accompany a 2-1 mark and 2.96 ERA in 7 Grapefruit League starts. Of 215 pitches this spring, 172 went for strikes.
And he looked fine against the San Diego Padres (4th highest Swing% in NL), fanning 10 while walking just 2 over 7 scoreless innings in an 8-4 Mets win.
Of note, the Phillies Swing% this season is the highest in the NL.
Tonight, Harvey will work his usual repertoire of 93-94 m.p.h. heat with a vanishing act slider and changeup and a solid curve, getting nearly as many ground balls as pop ups.
He went 1-0 with a 2.03 ERA in 2 quality starts against the Phillies last season, the no-decision coming in a 3-2 Phillies win on Sept. 19.
Howard (6 PAs), John Mayberry (5), Erik Kratz (3), Laynce Nix (3) and Domonic Brown (2) were hitless against him with 8 strikeouts. Jimmy Rollins went 2 for 5 with a 2-run homer.
Hot And Cold
Utley (.391), Michael Young (.333) and Rollins (.308) are all batting over .300. Young has drawn 4 walks, for a .357 OBP.
Howard is 4 for 24 (.167) with 7 strikeouts, and Kratz is 3 for 20 (.150) with 7 Ks.
Save for a 3 for 5 day yesterday, Ben Revere is 4 for 22 (.181) so far, with grounders on 22 of 24 balls in play.
Wright and Buck have each swung a hot bat early. Through 6 games, Wright is 6 for 20 (.300) with 3 RBI, Buck 8 for 20 (.400) with 2 home runs and 9 RBI.
Davis, meanwhile, is 3 for 22 (.136) with a home run.
New York’s bullpen isn’t nearly the dumpster fire that Philly’s has been, but it’s vulnerable for sure: they’ve mustered a mere 4.85 ERA. The key? They’ve only thrown 13 innings in 6 games.
Yet another reason why taking pitches, working counts and stringing Harvey along will be key.
On their end, the Phillies are best served crossing their fingers. On Halladay’s ability to go deep. On Raul Valdes, who will be available to play longman (Chad Durbin went yesterday, and allowed 2 runners inherited from Cole Hamels to score, making him 3 for 3 this season with deepening holes). On basically everybody not named Jonathan Papelbon and Mike Adams.