By Declan Finn
There will be bigger series and moments along the way this season for the New York Mets, but for now, their two-game sweep over the Baltimore Orioles in the middle of this week was as big as it gets. The Mets came into the series losing five of their last six games and were on the verge of losing all the momentum that came with an 11-game win streak that propelled the team to the best record in baseball. So, taking both games against a team from the American League was a sign the Mets have righted the ship before heading on the road.
The Mets now take that two-game winning streak to Philadelphia to begin a three-game series with the Phillies starting Friday night. Here is our insider's look at the divisional matchup, which includes a Matt Harvey Day.
New York Mets (18-10, 1st Place NL East)
at Philadelphia Phillies (10-19, 5th Place NL East)
Friday, 7:05 p.m.
Matt Harvey (5-0, 2.41) vs. Cole Hamels (1-3, 4.14)
Saturday, 7:05 p.m.
Jonathon Niese (2-2, 2.40) vs. Aaron Harang (3-2, 2.35)
Sunday, 1:35 p.m.
Dillon Gee (0-2, 3.86) vs. Chad Billingsley (0-1, 9.00)
The Mets got exactly what they needed by winning both games against the Orioles this week. That burst of momentum comes at the perfect time, as the Mets hit the road for seven straight games, against the Phillies and then the Cubs. Before the two-game series win, the Mets had lost five of six and were 3-7 in their last 10 games. But a series sweep always brings momentum. The Phillies have lost seven of their last nine games, including a five-game losing streak. Philadelphia did win two games in a row, against Miami and Atlanta, but comes into this series after losing the final two games of a series against the Braves.
Three Mets Storylines
1. Happy Harvey Day! Harvey gets the start Friday night in a matchup that would have been huge news if his counterpart, Hamels, wasn't struggling as much as he has this season. Hamels, the de facto ace, but not the best pitcher on the team right now, has a 1-3 record and ERA north of four. Harvey most certainly is the ace of the Mets, with a perfect record and 2.41 ERA. He has been everything the Mets could have hoped for this season, considering the year Harvey lost due to injury. Harvey will be going for his sixth straight win to start the year, which would put him alongside just three other Mets pitchers to accomplish that feat, Dick Selma, Dwight Gooden and Frank Viola. Harvey is also 5-0 with a 1.60 ERA in six starts against the Phillies in his career. Happy Harvey Day indeed.
2. David Wright suffered another injury while working his way back from a hamstring strain that landed him on the disabled list in mid-April. Wright had lower back pain during his rehab and was sent for an MRI that didn't reveal any damage. He should return to baseball activities on Monday, but he's way behind schedule with an injury he should have returned from by now. The Mets went with Eric Campbell in his place, but after hitting just .200, the Mets have moved Daniel Murphy to third base and Dilson Herrera was called up from the minors to play second. Wright missed two months in 2011 with a stress fracture in his lower back.
3. Curtis Granderson finally homered at Citi Field this season, helping lead the Mets to a sweep of the Orioles Wednesday night. Granderson was obviously signed by the Mets to bring power to the lineup, and it hasn't worked out that way, but maybe that homer will get his bat going. Granderson has just two homers in his last 10 games, but he does hit more when on the road. So, the seven-game road trip might not be a welcomed adventure for most of the Mets, but maybe it can get Granderson on a home run streak that continues for the rest of the season. The Mets and their fans certainly hope it does.
Three Phillies To Know
1. You know Hamels, but you might not know how well Aaron Harang has pitched this season for the Phillies. The 36-year-old leads Philadelphia in both wins and ERA and has allowed three runs or fewer in five of his six starts. He did, however, lose to the Mets earlier in the year, despite allowing just one run on four hits in six innings of work. The Mets should win this series, but the middle game might not be as easy as it would appear on paper.
2. Ryan Howard has seen a dramatic dip in his production at the plate, but he comes into this series after going 6-for-12 with a double, triple, home run and three RBI over his last three games. Howard is batting just .220 with five homers and and 13 RBI in 25 games, but may have finally found his groove.
3. Chase Utley, on the other hand, has not found himself at the plate, with a .103 batting average in 25 games. He has just nine hits the entire season, three more than Howard has in 75 less at bats during the latter's recent surge. Utley was sat down for the past two games, but is back in the lineup Friday against the Mets, batting third. With Utley batting third, it's no wonder the Phillies are in last place.
The Mets head to Chicago for four games against the Cubs starting Monday night.