Phillies (9-14) at Mets (10-10)
7:10 p.m. – PHL17
What you need to know is that the Phillies are struggling in every facet except starting pitching right now, and their late-inning issues from a year ago have only been magnified despite this team having more talent.
For a handful of depressing stats, have a look at just how poor the Phillies have hit and pitched in the middle and late innings.
Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee allowed just six earned runs in 21 innings this week, putting 22 men on base and striking out 21. That’s a 2.57 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP and a strikeout per inning, and yet Halladay and Lee took no decisions and Hamels was dealt a loss.
Why? Because the Phillies’ offense and bullpen has failed them in April.
It’s been 14 games since a Phillies starter other than Halladay was credited with a win.
The Phils are looking to avoid their second four-game losing streak already and their first 15-loss April since 2002.
Kyle Kendrick (1-1, 3.28) has made three consecutive quality starts and -- if you take away the three inherited runs allowed by Jeremy Horst in the home opener –- KK has a 2.19 ERA.
Kendrick has been striking batters out at a higher rate than ever before. He’s averaging 6.9 strikeouts per nine this season and 6.6 the last two years after averaging 4.1 from 2007-11. He has legitimately grown and developed into a solid major-league starting pitcher.
Kendrick beat the Mets on April 10, when he allowed two runs on two solo homers over six innings. He put eight other men on base but stranded them all. He’ll want to avoid the tight-rope act this time around.
Current Mets are hitting just .246 off him, and nearly all of the damage has been done by David Wright (.324, four XBH). Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, John Buck and Ruben Tejada are a combined 11 for 61 (.180) against KK.
Kendrick has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 30 of 44 starts since 2011.
Another look at Gee
The Phillies face Dillon Gee (1-3, 5.95) a lot. They took him deep three times and scored seven runs on 10 hits over three innings against him on April 9.
Gee owns a 7.75 career ERA against the Phillies, with seven home runs allowed in 33 2/3 innings.
But the 26-year-old righty is a much different pitcher at spacious Citi Field. He has a 14.09 ERA this season on the road, where he’s served up all four of his gopher balls. But at home his ERA is 0.75, and he has a .154 opponents’ batting average.
Active Phils are 28 for 70 (.400) off Gee. Ryan Howard is 3 for 9 with three homers, Michael Young is 4 for 5 with two bombs, Jimmy Rollins is 7 for 11 and John Mayberry is 4 for 6 with a pair of longballs.
Differences in discipline
The organizational philosophy laid out by Mets GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins is "take pitches, work pitchers, run deep counts." Because of that, New York is off to a decent start for the second straight season and is toward the top in runs per game despite having mid-tier talent after David Wright.
The Mets have scored 30 more runs than the Phillies in three fewer games. They've also seen exactly 30 more three-ball counts.
New York leads the majors in pitches per plate appearance, at 4.06.
The Phillies are 24th in the majors with a .301 on-base percentage.
It would be absolutely silly to expect this team to make the playoffs if it doesn’t substantially improve its plate discipline.
Exactly one NL team since 2000 has made the playoffs with an OBP under .320 – the 2012 Cincinnati Reds, who made up for it with tremendous power (which the Phillies don’t have) and an elite bullpen.
Baby steps at the plate
At least the Phillies are hitting better over the last week. They have 20 walks in their last seven games.
Over that span, Chase Utley, Rollins and Howard are all hitting over .300. Domonic Brown is at .294 with five walks.
But it hasn’t led to run production. The Phils have scored just 25 runs over those seven games and homered three times (Utley, Howard, Erik Kratz).
Force an early exit
The Mets haven’t been doing much winning lately. They’re 3-6 in their last nine games, and four of those losses were taken by the bullpen. Mets relievers have a 5.51 ERA over that span, with four homers allowed in just over 30 innings.
The Phillies haven’t hit at all in innings 4-9 (see story), but that has to change at some point, right?