Meet the Mets, but can the Phillies beat the Mets? | Extra Innings

Only five teams in baseball — Boston, the New York Yankees, Houston, Atlanta and Arizona — have a better record than the Phillies after the Phils’ four-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants. The Phillies are 22-15. A year ago, they did not earn their 22nd victory until June 15, and by then, they had 43 losses and fans were dying for the start of Eagles training camp. The Phillies this week also pulled off their second four-game sweep of the season, duplicating the feat they inflicted on Pittsburgh last month. The Phillies had a total of two four-game sweeps from 2012 through 2017.

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—  Bob Brookover  (extrainnings@philly.com)

Camera icon CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Phillies righthander Jake Arrieta will pitch the opener of the Phillies’ three-game series vs. the New York Mets on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Meet the Mets

The last time the Phillies saw the New York Mets was at Citi Field in Queens in their second series of the season. The Mets swept that two-game series on their way to an 11-1 start, but since then they have gone 7-16. They have hit .203 and averaged just 2.3 runs in losing eight of their last nine. New York was also embroiled in a bitter standoff with former first-round pick Matt Harvey before trading the pitcher Tuesday for Cincinnati catcher Devin Mesoraco.

None of this means the Phillies are going to have an easy time with the Mets this weekend because the Phillies never have an easy time with the Mets. While winning five straight NL East titles from 2007-11, the Phillies went 51-39 against the Mets. In the seven seasons since, the Phillies are 42-73 against New York and have been outscored, 604-473.

The Mets will also throw their two best starters against the Phillies with Noah Syndergaard (2-1, 3.09) pitching Saturday night against Zach Eflin (1-0, 0.71) and Jacob deGrom (3-0, 1.87) going against Aaron Nola (5-1, 2.05) in the series finale Sunday.  Syndergaard is 4-1 with a 2.06 ERA in seven career starts against the Phillies. In 11 career starts against the Phils, deGrom is 6-1 with a 2.78 ERA.

The Phillies will open the series with Jake Arrieta (3-1, 3.15) facing Steven Matz (1-3, 4.23) on Friday night. Arrieta is 2-2 with a 2.30 ERA in seven career starts against the Mets.

The rundown

The Phillies are the youngest team in baseball, and their resolve was tested Sunday when they lost a game they should have won against the Washington Nationals. They responded with a four-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants as Odubel Herrera collected three more hits and extended his on-base streak to 39 games. Herrera also elevated his batting average to a major-league-leading .353. Afterward, he told me there is something different about this Phillies team.

Former Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. will be back in his hometown Friday night as the first-base coach for the Mets. Ahead of his trip here, RAJ did a phone interview with our Scott Lauber and said he wished he would have started the rebuilding process a lot sooner than he did. Still, if you look at the core players responsible for the Phillies’ 22-15 start, the vast majority of them were acquired during Amaro’s tenure as GM.

Carlos Santana provided the big blow with a three-run home run, his third homer in four games against the Giants, but Tuesday’s 6-3 victory also included brilliant pitching. Vince Velasquez rebounded from a rough start to go six innings and strike out 12, then the bullpen trio of Seranthony Dominquez, Luis Garcia and Hector Neris followed with three perfect innings. Our Matt Breen explains how Velasquez rebounded so well after the second inning.

Reliever Pat Neshek, out since the start of the season because of a shoulder injury, thought he was close to starting a rehab assignment earlier this week. Now, he also has a forearm injury and the Phillies’ lone all-star last season is unsure of when he will be back on the mound.

The Phillies’ triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs are playing extremely well, but that did not stop them from purchasing space on a billboard near their home park that makes a plea for NBA star LeBron James to join them. Everybody knows, of course, that King James will be playing for the 76ers next season.

When asked to assess the way third baseman Mitch Walding was playing for the IronPigs so far this season, Phillies player personnel director Joe Jordan provided a strong answer: “He looks like a major-league player.”

Important dates

Tonight: Jake Arrieta starts series opener against Mets vs. Steven Matz, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow:
 Zach Eflin against Noah “Thor” Syndergaard, 7:05 p.m.
Sunday: 
Aaron Nola vs. Jacob deGrom in Phillies-Mets finale, 1:35 p.m.
Monday: 
Off day
Tuesday: Phillies open two-game series against Baltimore in Camden Yards, 7:05 p.m.

Camera icon JOSE MORENO / Staff Photographer
Phillies pitcher Vince Velasquez had two hits in addition to his 12 strikeouts during Thursday’s victory over San Francisco at Citizens Bank Park.

Stat of the day

Vince Velasquez has emerged as the Phillies’ best hitting pitcher. In fact, he is by far the best hitting pitcher in baseball so far this season. His .462 batting average (6 for 13) is 129 points higher than that of any other pitcher in baseball with at least 10 at-bats. His six hits have equaled the total Ben Lively had last season to lead all Phillies pitchers. Velasquez has always been a good hitting pitcher. His career average before this season was .219.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob

The MLB Draft is only a month away. Who are some names the fans should keep an eye on for the Phillies in the first round? Thank you.
Greg S, via email

Answer: The Phillies pick third in next month’s draft and the player most associated with them at this point is Nick Madrigal, a middle infielder at Oregon State. Madrigal, a junior, missed a good portion of time earlier this season because of a fractured hand, but his stock has not dropped. He is hitting .449 in 18 games after hitting .380 with 20 doubles and four home runs as a sophomore. Madrigal’s size — 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds — could be a deterrent for some teams, but there is plenty of evidence all around baseball that height and weight do not matter as much as heart and drive. Baseball America’s most recent mock draft had the Phillies taking Wichita State’s Alec Bohm with the No. 3 overall pick. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound third baseman is hitting .335 with 11 home runs.