The New York Mets just defeated the cross-town rival Yankees in the most recent installment of the subway series, but the real test for this squad begins Tuesday when R.A. Dickey toes the rubber at Citi Field.
The Mets are five games back in the division, but they have an opportunity this week to really make some noise in the National League East and let everyone in baseball know they are for real.
The Mets will host their real rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies, in a series that is far more important than the subway series. Sure, defeating the Yankees in the subway series was meaningful, but at the end of the day it’s only an inter-league match-up. The confidence the Mets gained this weekend is far more valuable than the two wins they picked up.
The series this week with the Phillies will go a long way in determining the fate of the Mets this season. And the Mets are riding high with confidence.
Not to mention, the Mets are finally starting to feel at home in Citi Field, as they are 16-9 in Flushing this season. And they are set up to narrow the distance between them and the Phillies in the standings this week.
On Tuesday, the Mets will send out the knuckleballer Dickey in the series opener. If you recall this past weekend the Phillies had trouble with fellow knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Wakefield threw a gem against the Phillies, allowing only five hits in eight shutout innings. The Mets will be facing a guy who they have seen plenty of over the years in Jamie Moyer.
On Wednesday, Hisanori Takahashi will take the mound at Citi Field in his second start of the season. In his start Friday night against the Yankees, Takahashi was superb over six innings of work against the powerhouse Yankee lineup. In his six shutout innings he struck out five and walked only one, while maintaining a brilliant ball-to-strike ratio of 73-28.
If Takahashi pitches that effectively against the Phillies there is no reason the Mets can’t take game two of the series.
The Mets will send out their most efficient pitcher this season in the series finale, a 6-1 Mike Pelfrey. Pelfrey has really found himself this season, posting a 2.86 earned run average, but his last time out against the Phillies he was shelled. Pelfrey will be seeking revenge against the Phillies, and there is nothing better than a hungry pitcher looking to make a statement against a division rival.
There is no doubt the Mets have the pitching advantage in this important NL east series, but that is not what will carry them to a series win. It’s the red-hot Jason Bay.
Jason Bay has finally figured out Citi Field, something that not even David Wright has been able to do yet. He made adjustments to become a line-drive doubles hitter and has been finding the large holes Citi Field posses, and now that he’s locked in he has added the long-ball to his repertoire.
The Mets have finally discovered some stability in their line-up, something that Jerry Manuel has had difficulty finding since he took over as manager. Jose Reyes is back into a groove since being inserted into his more comfortable leadoff position. And future clean-up hitter, Ike Davis, is giving the Mets a much-needed presence in that spot, and with Wright behind him in the order he will get some pitches to hit.
Angel Pagan batting sixth, is basically a lead-off hitter for the bottom half of the order. And with guys like Rod Barajas and Jeff Francoeur following him, this can be a scary good six through eight.
The offense will really need to shine in order to take this series, and when combined with solid starting pitching there is no reason the Mets can’t sweep the Phillies to get within two games.
After a day off at home with no travel, the Mets will be rested and focused, ready to make their presence in the division felt.