Phillies-Mets: 5 things you need to know

Phillies-Mets: 5 things you need to know
May 30, 2014, 12:30 pm
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Phillies vs. Mets
7:05 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies ran into the Zack Wheeler buzzsaw on Thursday night, striking out nine times against the Mets' starter and 15 times overall in a 4-1 loss.

Wheeler was dominant, with a get-me-over curveball that froze hitters early in counts and a fastball with late life and elevation that the Phillies could not catch up with.

If the 24-year-old keeps pitching like that, he's going to be the frontline starter the Mets envisioned him being.

The five-game series continues Friday night, and here are five things you need to know:

Series importance
How important is this five-gamer for the Phils and Mets?

Well, with the Braves skidding (four straight losses), the Mets moved to within three games of first place in the NL East after Thursday's win. The Phillies, at 23-28, are still four games off the pace.

To finish their season-long 11-game homestand with a winning record, the Phillies must take at least three of the next four from New York. That would make them 6-5 on the homestand, which is still pretty uninspiring.

Anything less than three wins over the next four nights would result in yet another sub-.500 homestand.

It's been 21 games since the Phillies were last .500, and they've spent more than three weeks at least two games under .500.

Burnett's time to shine
The Phillies paid A.J. Burnett $16 million at the beginning of spring training to dominate games like this.

Facing a mediocre Mets lineup with the result of the homestand on the line, Burnett needs to be on his game Friday night to help get the Phillies on a roll.

Burnett is 3-4 with a 3.51 ERA in 11 starts -- decent numbers that go hand-in-hand with his 2012 and 2013 seasons.

But the way he's gone about posting that 3.51 ERA has been rocky. Burnett has had five starts where he's allowed two runs or fewer, but he's also had outings allowing six, seven and eight runs.

In four starts from April 17 to May 3, Burnett allowed three runs in 27 2/3 innings for a 0.98 ERA. The Phillies won all four games.

But in his last four starts, Burnett has allowed 19 runs (16 earned) in 23 innings for a 6.26 ERA. The Phillies have lost three of four.

Burnett, despite pitching in the NL since 2012, has faced the Mets just once over the last three seasons. That explains why, outside of Bobby Abreu, current Mets have just 56 career at-bats against him.

Abreu, who will likely start Friday night, is 23 for 70 (.329) against Burnett with eight doubles, two homers, 13 walks and 20 strikeouts.

David Wright is just 3 for 21 against the Phils' veteran righty, with 10 Ks. All Mets aside from Abreu are 12 for 56 (.214) with one homer, six walks and 17 strikeouts.

Let's meet Montero
The Mets counter with 23-year-old Dominican right-hander Rafael Montero, who is making his fourth major-league appearance and start.

Montero is 0-2 with a 4.96 ERA, but dazzled the Diamondbacks last Sunday by allowing a mere two hits over six innings while striking out 10.

Montero throws his fastball from 92 to 94 mph, a slider in the low 80s, a changeup in the high 80s and a two-seam fastball. That sinker has been his best pitch.

The Phillies should expect a lot of heaters early in the count. Montero has thrown his fastball on the first pitch 72 percent of the time.

Protect the house
Citizens Bank Park is supposed to be a bandbox, a hitter's haven.

And yet the Phillies have hit .229 at home with just 24 home runs in 27 games. Pretty pathetic. Only the Mets and Mariners have hit worse at home, but Citi Field and Safeco Field are regarded as two of the three worst parks for hitters.

The Phils are 11-16 at Citizens Bank Park, and have lost six straight home games to the Mets for the first time since 1971.

Domonic Brown has had an extremely tough time with the bat at home, which could be the result of pressure to perform, adaptations in his swing to the confines of CBP, or just a small sample size. In any case, he's hit .145 at home with 23 strikeouts in 83 at-bats.

This and that
• Thursday night was the 13th time this year the Phillies have scored one or no runs. That's fourth-most in baseball, to the Braves (17), Padres (15) and Astros (14).

It was also the seventh time this season the Phils have managed no more than one run and no more than four hits. Only the Reds have more such games.

• David Wright was just 1 for 5 in the opener with a single, but is hitting .339 in May.

• At what point do we start asking if Travis d'Arnaud is a bust? The former Phillies prospect was traded to Toronto for Roy Halladay and then to New York when the Mets dealt away R.A. Dickey.

The 25-year-old catcher is hitting .189 this year and .195 in 205 career at-bats in The Show. Not even close to an indicative sample size, but d'Arnaud hasn't been able to avoid injury or flash his potential at the game's highest level.

• Antonio Bastardo's last two outings: 1 innings, 0 hits, 0 runs, 5 walks, 0 strikeouts. "I'm not even mad, that's amazing."

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