The Phillies have an early three game series against the rival Mets starting tonight (Tuesday). The Phillies have gotten off to a scorching hot start (albeit against the lowly Astros) and they look to keep the good times rolling.
The Mets won their first series as well, taking two of three from the Marlins.
This series most definitely means a lot more to Mets fragile psyche than the proven Phillies, but it is still always fun to kick a New York team while they are down right?
As expected, the Phillies have had outstanding starting pitching in their first three games. Their lineup has done their part as well (eh, Brett Myers) and the Phightin's have again staked their claim that they are the beast of the East and the National League.
Here are the five keys to the Phillies vs. Mets series.
We have a very little sample size to judge Benny Fran's play with the Phillies, but there is no denying that the guy is a major league talent.
He had an outstanding spring that left many (myself included) thinking he would be more than an adequate replacement in right field and "Werth every penny." In 26 spring training games, he hit .385. Add to that the nine walks and his on-base percentage was up over .450.
The guy showed that he can hit for contact and for power.
Of his 25 hits, 10 were for extra bases, including one triple and four home runs. He drove in 13 runs this spring and also scored 12 times himself.
He has had some very shaky plays in the field to start the season, but we hope those quirks can be "righted" with more playing time. He has shown that he can run and has a cannon for an arm.
Francisco is hitting .462 thus far with one HR and four RBI. His presence as a solid right-handed bat in the middle of the lineup is key to the Phillies offense continuing to thrive. That is unless Ryan Howard decides to carry the team (as we've seen him do before).
Look for Cole to bounce back from a shaky spring and return to his 2010 form. The guy has always had the talent to be a Cy Young caliber pitcher, but it seems that he now has the mental framework to be one of the most dominating pitchers in the game.
Halladay, Lee and Oswalt all had stellar first outings and history tells us that healthy competition brings out the best in Hamels. Look for him to keep the streak of dominant starting pitching to continue tonight against the Mets.
It is worth noting that some of the Mets top hitters have fared pretty well against Hamels over the past five years. Beltran, Wright, Ike Davis (limited number of at-bats), Scott Hairston and Daniel Murphy have all hit over .300 against Cole.
Look for him to have his fastball humming as loud as the 45,000 in attendance tonight as he shuts down and shuts up the Mets.
Chris Young may be 6'10", but he still comes into this season with a ton to prove for a former All-Star. The guy looks like a giant on the mound, but he needs to show that he will be available to pitch every fifth day. The right-hander has been stopped by shoulder troubles the last two seasons, and he hasn't made more than 20 starts since 2007.
But who cares about Chris Young and the Mets? Phillies hitters need to continue making solid contact and they will be fine. Young has a career 4.50 ERA against the Phillies.
Ryan Howard has homered off of him in his career as well. Be afraid, be very afraid.
As I noted in my last article, Howard has been a notoriously slow starter. He heats up as the weather heats up. Well, he has been pounding the ball all over the field and it has been pretty cold the first three games.
The weather will be a little warmer tonight and look for the Phillies giant to slay the Mets giant Chris Young.
Howard is scolding the ball to the tune of a .538 batting average with one HR and six RBI (four of them in the series finale against the Astros). We know that Howard has broad shoulders to carry this team, and look for that to continue against the hated Mets.
Mets fans may point out that they have held the big man to a .259 batting average over the past seven seasons, but I would like to remind them that he's still torched them for 28 homers in 363 at-bats. With each homer being as devastating as the next (i.e New York choke artists).
One more thing to make Philly Phaithful feel confident, Howard will be facing two starting RHP during the three game series against the Mets.
While the past four years has been close to pure bliss for Philly Nation, it has been pure hell for Mets fans. While the dreadful Mets have choked down the stretch in recent years, the Phillies have come to life and dominated when the games mean the most.
Consequently, obnoxious Mets fans at Phillies games have been few and far between. I still find it comical that a 300 pound bald guy wearing a Daryl Strawberry Mets t-shirt has the cajones to sit behind the Mets dugout and watch his team strikeout one after another.
Remember in 2008 before the Mets collapsed and the Phillies won the World Series? If you watched a Phillies-Mets game, you would see a load of Mets fans screaming wildly and talking trash the entire game. Until the Mets would "amazingly" blow the game in the ninth or extra innings, leaving there fans sulking the entire way back up I-95.
Let this series be another nail in the coffin for Mets fans. Your team has produced nothing more than a few Family Guy jokes, corporate scandals and overpaid, overzealous players (see Jose Reyes).
Here's to hoping the Phightin's can stay hot against the Mets this week.