Is it Too Early to Call This a Must-Win?
April 5th, 2011 by slangon

I know it’s only 4 games into the season, but I’m really feeling like it is. The Mets face their first major hurdle of the season when they start a 3 game series against the juggernaut Phillies in Philadelphia tonight. Fortunately, they’ll be missing Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt, but they will be facing Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton and Doc Halladay. There’s several way that this series can go. They can return home to Citi Field on Friday with a 2-4 record. They can come home with a 5-1 record. They could also possibly return with a 3-3 record or a 4-2 record. You can never tell how things will go with this team. As they say, I guess that’s why they play the games.

They kick things off tonight with their big reclamation project Chris Young taking the mound for the Mets.

The Mets signed Young as a low-risk, high-reward pitcher. He only made 36 starts from 2008-2010, going 13-12 during that stretch. He had shoulder surgery in 2009. Before that though, he was a solid starter for the Padres and the Rangers. It’s always a crap shoot trying to figure out if a pitcher coming off of injuries will bounce back to his previous form. Young did have a solid Spring Training however, allowing 5 earned runs in 25.1 innings for a tidy 1.78 ERA. He walked 7 and struck out 13. Lifetime, he is 2-2 against the Phillies in 5 starts with 28.0 innings pitched. While the 2-2 record doesn’t say much, he averaged 5.2 innings per game against them and had an even 4.50 ERA. Considering that the definition of a quality start is 6 innings pitched with 3 or less runs allowed (which works out to a 4.50 ERA), I figure he’ll at least keep them in the game.

The Phightin’ Phils will be countering with their 4th ace, Cole Hamels.

Although the prospect of facing any of the Phillies starting pitchers is nerve wracking, I feel like the Mets have a shot against Hamels. So far in 13 starts against them, Hamels is 2-8, so he can be beaten.

Tomorrow the Mets will be sending their “ace” Mike Pelfrey to the mound.

Mike did not have a good outing on Opening Day. He gave up 5 runs in 4.1 innings, capped off by a grand salami to John Buck. To me, even when he was getting outs he didn’t look too good. I felt like it took him about 100 pitches just to get one guy out. He just never looked comfortable on the mound. Do you chalk that up to Mike being a bad pitcher? Do you chalk that up to him not being very good against the Marlins throughout his career? Do you chalk it up to one bad day? In the end, I guess it doesn’t matter. He was just bad. The good news is that he’s historically done a bit better against the Phillies than he has the Fish, going 6-4 in 13 starts. Curiously, he’s hit 5 batters over that span, although considering Chase “Lean Into It” Utley isn’t in the lineup, that probably won’t be a problem.

The Phil’s will send to the mound the one guy in their rotation that isn’t considered an ace, but is by no means a scrub in Joe Blanton.

Even though Blanton isn’t a Roy Halladay or a Cliff Lee or a Roy Oswalt or a Cole Hamels, he’s still a guy who will give you 13 or so wins a year and only allow about 4 or so runs a game. What’s more, he seems to have the Mets number. He’s gone 3-1 against them with a 2.64 ERA. Again, though, he’s not a Roy and his name doesn’t start with a C, so if the Mets hitters hunker down I think they can get to him.

Fianlly, on Thursday, Jon Niese will head to the hill for the final game of this initial road trip.

Niese actually pitched pretty well against the Marlins last Saturday despite not picking up a win. He went 7 innings allowing 2 earned runs. Having watched that game, I have to point out that although there were no errors in the inning that the 2 runs were scored, there was a play that rookie second baseman Brad Emaus should’ve made that probably would’ve resulted in one less run. Would that have led to a different outcome? Who knows. I just felt I should mention that. I feel like Niese has also pitched better against the Phillies than his 1-1 record would indicate. I say that mostly due to his 2.14 ERA against them. He’s also average 8.6 strikeouts per 9 innings against them. He’s also pitched really well in Philly, only allowing 2 runs in 14 innings for a 1.29 ERA.

For as well as Niese has done against the Phillies in a relatively small sample, he’ll have his work cut out for him as he’ll be facing none other than Roy Halladay.

I don’t think I need to say too much about Halladay. Just for fun, I want to point out that Doc is 0-3 against the Cubs, and they’ve been pretty bad, so there’s hope.

All in all, although it’s only the first week of the season and there’s no need to freak out regardless of the outcome, this is a really important early test for this Mets team. This is really a chance to show people that maybe they’re not as big a joke as people think. If this team as a whole really does what I feel they’re capable of, I think it’s perfectly possible to walk away from Philly with a 4-2 record. Let’s hope. Otherwise, I’m going to be really grouchy come this weekend.

Let’s Go Mets!

One Response to “Is it Too Early to Call This a Must-Win?”

  1. I’d be happy if the Mets went 2-1 in Philly this week (and ecstatic if they went 3-0)… but if they come home from a 3-3 road trip on Friday, I won’t let it ruin the home opener for me.

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