The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies begin an important four-game series on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies lead the Mets by 4.5 games in the National League East Division. Here is my position by position breakdown of the two teams.
Catcher: PHI:Chris Coste: .317, 16 R, 7 HR, 21 RBI, .925 OPS NYM: Brian Schneider: .255, 13 R, 2 HR, 16 RBI, .638 OPS
Schneider is excellent defensively for the Mets and he does a great job calling games and handling the young pitchers John Maine, and Mike Pelfrey. However, he barely does anything on offense. Coste has been getting on base and contributing nicely on offense for the Phillies. Edge: Phillies
First Base: PHI: Ryan Howard: .219, 54 R, 22 HR, 72 RBI, .784 OPS NYM: Carlos Delgado: .238, 43 R, 15 HR, 49 R, .759 OPS
Howard has been maligned for his major league leading 116 strikeouts and his very low batting average. However, he is still contributing very much so and leads the NL with 72 RBI. After a terrible start Delgado has been hitting much better lately, but he still swings at bad pitches and has trouble catching up to the fastball. Edge: Phillies
Second Base: PHI: Chase Utley: .300, 63 R, 24 HR, 67 RBI, .996 OPS NYM: Damion Easley: .277, 15 R, 2 HR, 19 RBI, .697
Easley has been reliable coming off the bench for the Mets. He will now start at second for at least a couple of weeks with Luis Castillo on the disabled list. Easley has had two straight multi-hit games starting in Castillo's place. Easley is no match for the MVP candidate Utley. After a string of six games without a hit, Utley has started to heat up again, hitting .370 in the last two series. Edge: Phillies
Third Base: PHI: Pedro Feliz: .267, 30 R, 10 HR, 42 RBI, .749 OPS NYM: David Wright: .292, 54 R, 16 HR, 65 RBI, 8 SB, .903 OPS
Feliz has been a nice addition to the Phillies offense, providing a little extra pop. Wright has hit .484 since being given a scheduled day off on June 24. If he continues his hot streak, Wright might find himself in the thick of the MVP race with Utley. Edge: Mets
Shortstop: PHI: Jimmy Rollins: .276, 37 R, 6 HR, 29 RBI, 19 SB, .794 OPS NYM: Jose Reyes: .295, 62 R, 9 HR, 37 RBI, 28 SB, .839 OPS
These two are part of the elite trio of NL East shortstops that includes the Marlins' Hanley Ramirez. Rollins' average has dropped since coming off the DL with an ankle injury and hasn't had as much pop this year. Reyes is the key component to the Mets offense, and he will need to get on base if the Mets hope to win this series. Edge: Mets
Left Field: PHI: Pat Burrell: .278, 47 R, 21 HR, 52 RBI, 1.002 OPS NYM: Endy Chavez: .251, 19 R, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 4 SB, .609 OPS
Burrell has had a tremendous year for the Phillies hitting behind Ryan Howard. With Moises Alou's frequent injuries the Mets have been juggling several left fielders. They have had Fernando Tatis, Marlon Anderson, Chris Aguila, and Nick Evans play left at one time or another. Chavez has started the past five games and hit .409 in those games. Edge: Phillies
Center Field: PHI: Shane Victorino: .265, 51 R, 3 HR, 22 RBI, 20 SB, .708 OPS NYM: Carlos Beltran: .265, 59 R, 12 HR, 56 RBI, 11 SB, .836 OPS
Victorino provides speed to the Phillies powerful offense, and plays well defensively. With Chavez in left, the Mets have one of the best defensive outfields in the majors, and it all starts with Beltran in center. Beltran received a day off yesterday. We'll see if it provides the same results as Wright's off day. Edge: Mets.
Right Field: PHI: Geoff Jenkins: .239, 22 R, 6 HR, 22 RBI, .663 OPS NYM: Ryan Church: .308, 40 R, 10 HR, 36 RBI, .886 OPS
Jenkins provides veteran leadership for the Phillies but has not had a very good year. Expect to see Jayson Werth start in right against the left-handed Johan Santana. Mets' GM Omar Minaya did an excellent job in trading Lastings Milledge for Church and Schneider. Church was leading the Mets offense in most categories when he went on the disabled list with a concussion. He's picked up right where he left off, hitting .381 with five runs scored in five games since returning. Edge: Mets
Bench: PHI: Carlos Ruiz (C), Eric Bruntlett (2B/SS), Gregg Dobbs (1B, 3B, LF), So Taguchi (OF), Jayson Werth (OF). NYM: Ramon Castro (C), Marlon Anderson (1B/OF), Fernando Tatis (OF, 1B, 3B), Chris Aguila (OF), Argenis Reyes (2B).
Expect to see Castro get at least one start in the four-game series. He can provide some occasional pop to the Mets lineup. Werth also will likely get a start, and has had a good year. The Mets bench is a bit old, and thin with Castillo, Alou, Angel Pagan, and Trot Nixon on the disabled list. However, Anderson is excellent in pinch hit situations. Edge: Even.
PHI: Brad Lidge, Tom Gordon, JC Romero, Rudy Seanez, Ryan Madson, Clay Condrey, Chad Durbin. ERA: 2.66
NYM: Billy Wagner, Duaner Sanchez, Pedro Feliciano, Joe Smith, Aaron Heilman, Scott Schoenweis, Tony Armas. ERA: 3.92
The Phillies bullpen is a big reason why they're in first in the division. The Mets bullpen has had trouble getting big outs when they are most needed, altough Duaner Sanchez and Aaron Heilman have been improving greatly. Edge: Phillies.
Johan Santana v.s. J.A. Happ, John Maine v.s. Jamie Moyer, Oliver Perez v.s. Kyle Kendrick, Pedro Martinez v.s. Adam Eaton
Happ's only other major league start came against the Mets last year. He surrendered five runs in four innings. Santana got the win in his only career start against the Phillies earlier this year.
Oliver Perez has been very inconsistent for the Mets. However, he has stepped up in big games, evidenced by his seven innings of one-run ball against the Yankees last week. Perez has a 1.96 ERA in three starts at Citizens Bank Park. Kendrick, on the other hand, has consistently given the Phillies six innings of work while posting a 4.58 ERA.
Pedro Martinez has had trouble locating his pitches since returning from the disabled list. Although, his fastball has been in the 88-92 mph range, which is good for Pedro at his age. Eaton hasn't had a good year, but has turned in enough innings as to not wear out the Philadelphia bullpen.
The Phillies are fresh off a three-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves. The Mets bats have come alive, and they've been putting up runs the last few games. Perhaps the day off will help Carlos Beltran. I think the Mets starting pitching will be better than that of the Phillies and the offense will continue their hot streak. The Mets will win the series three games to one.