Phillies-Mets: What you need to know

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Phillies-Mets: What you need to know

New York Mets (15-13) at Phillies (14-15)7:05 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies finished a six-game divisional road trip through second-place Atlanta and first-place Washington 3-3. They lost a game in the standings to each team in the process.

Now, the Phils return to Citizens Bank Park for an eight-game homestand against beatable teams in the Mets, Padres and Astros. The Phillies play 14 of their next 16 games at home, where to this point they have played just 10 of 29 contests.

Starting Pitchers
Roy Halladay (3-2, 3.40) begins the homestand by opposing Mets lefty Jonathon Niese (2-1, 4.08).

Halladay has made 71 starts as a Phillie and this is the first one hell enter with an ERA over 3.00. That, of course, is because of his eight-run outing last Wednesday at Turner Field. In that game, Halladay blew a six-run lead for the second time in his career and saw his ERA skyrocket from 1.95 to its current 3.40.

Halladay has pitched at a high level in five of six starts in 2012, and he looked sharp through the first four innings last time out. But his strikeout and walk numbers are not what they were through this point in 2010 or 2011.

Through 37 innings this season, he has 10 walks and 24 strikeouts. Last season he had six walks and 39 strikeouts through 37 innings. In 2010 he had three walks and 28 strikeouts.

Niese has three quality starts in five tries this season with his best performance coming against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on April 14. Niese held the Phils to five hits over 6 23 shutout innings that day and allowed just two runners to reach scoring position.

Niese has handled the Phillies in the past with a 90-92 mile per hour fastball, a mid-70s curveball, a high-80s cutter and, on very rare occasions, a low-80s changeup.

Niese has relatively even lefty-righty splits over the last three seasons but same-handed batters are just 3 for 22 off him in 2012.

Previous games
The Phillies made a bit of news on Sunday night. Cole Hamels pitched a gem, but the start will be remembered for his first inning plunking of 19-year-old Nationals phenom Bryce Harper that resulted in a five-game suspension.

Harper proceeded to showcase his speed and baseball IQ by taking third on a single to left and stealing home when Hamels attempted a pickoff at first base.

After the game Hamels admitted that he hit Harper intentionally, leading to Nationals GM Mike Rizzo calling Hamels "gutless" and "fake-tough" (see story).

From an actual baseball, non-daytime drama standpoint, the Phillies lost two of three in Washington.

The Mets come to CBP winners of two straight after a four-game losing streak.

Head-to-head
The Phillies are 52-41 (.559) against the Mets since 2007, though theyve won just two of the last seven meetings.

Halladay is 9-2 in 11 starts vs. the Mets with a 2.88 ERA. Current Mets are 26 for 135 (.208) off Doc with four walks and 35 strikeouts. David Wright is 3 for 21 (.143) with 11 Ks.

Josh Thole, however, has hurt Halladay with seven hits in 16 at-bats. Those are the types of hitters that seem to do the most damage off Halladay slap-hitting bat-speed types like Thole and Jose Reyes.

Niese has frustrated the Phillies seven of the nine times hes faced them. In those seven outings, Niese has a 1.52 ERA in averaging just under seven innings. In two separate, disastrous starts in 2011, Niese allowed 14 runs in 10 innings. So there are at least signs that the Phillies can get to Niese when he doesnt have his best stuff.

Whos hot
Hunter Pence hit two bombs Sunday night to up his season totals to six home runs and 20 RBI.

Juan Pierre had two more hits Sunday, and despite the flaws many like to point out, is still hitting .333 after 78 at-bats.

Placido Polanco used a 3-for-5 night to raise his batting average to a season-high .268.

Storylines
- The Phillies need to make a dent in the standings over the next eight games. The Mets, Padres and Astros all come to Citizens Bank Park as majorly flawed teams, and thus far the Phillies havent taken advantage of weak foes.

- Halladay, too, needs to get on track after one of the strangest starts of his career. Shutting the Mets down for seven or eight innings to start a homestand would be an instant remedy.

- John Mayberry gets a rare start in the two-hole Monday night against Niese, whom Mayberry has homered off twice in 14 at-bats. Batting Mayberry so high in the order is an interesting tactic by Charlie Manuel. It figures to let him see Niese at least three times, and maybe that helps Mayberry run into a multi-hit game. He only has one this season April 23 in Arizona.

- If the Phillies go on a streak over the next week, Hamels beaning of Harper will likely be referred to as a spark. But really, it would have more to do with facing weak pitching and weaker offenses.

Sound off
1) What is your predicted Phillies record for the eight-game homestand against the Mets, Padres and Astros.

2) Was Hamels five-game suspension fair?

E-mail Corey Seidman at cseidman@comcastsportsnet.com

Twins 4, Phillies 2: Aaron Nola encouraged by good health, still looking for command

Twins 4, Phillies 2: Aaron Nola encouraged by good health, still looking for command

BOX SCORE

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Aaron Nola has not had a great spring.

But in the big picture, well, maybe he has.

Nola was one of the Phillies' biggest and most important question marks coming into camp. He had missed the final two months of the 2016 season because of an elbow injury. All he needed to do this spring to be in the starting rotation was show that he was healthy.

He's done that.

He pitched 5 2/3 innings against the Minnesota Twins and threw 82 pitches in his fifth start of the spring on Thursday. He gave up six hits, including a two-run homer, walked one and struck out six.

He's up to 17 2/3 innings for the spring -- without an elbow issue.

"I'm over that," Nola said after the game. "My elbow feels really good. I haven't had any pain or problems with it. I don't even think about it throwing or in games.

"Everything has been very positive. My body is healthy."

Nola, who lines up to fill the fifth spot in the Phillies' rotation, hasn't had good results this spring. He has given up 19 hits and 13 earned runs. But, again, the Phillies were only looking for good health.

"He's been working on his changeup," manager Pete Mackanin said. "Today, he threw more changeups than I've ever seen him throw. The changeup he threw for the home run, he admitted, 'I would never throw that pitch in a game.' But he's working on it, trying to get it going for him, and I think it's going to be a good pitch for him. 

"He really pitched better than the result he got. He had a lot of work with his changeup, which is important. He was as sharp as we've seen him."

Coming into camp, Mackanin was concerned about Nola's health.

"I'm less concerned right now," the manager said. "It's always going to be in the back of my mind. But it's good to see 92, 93, 94 (mph) coming out of his hand, which is important. Once he regains that command, and he showed real good command of his fastball down in the zone today, he's going to be back to where he was -- with even maybe a little more velocity. We'll see. But the changeup is going to help him. I'm very encouraged."

The game
The Phillies lost, 4-2, to the Twins.

The Phils had 10 hits, two by Odubel Herrera, who homered.

Andrew Knapp, pushing to make the club, started behind the plate and had a double.

The Phillies were just 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.

The Phils' bullpen -- Sean Burnett, Edubray Ramos and Hector Neris -- accounted for 3 1/3 innings of scoreless ball.

Up next
The Phils play the Yankees in Tampa on Friday. Jeremy Hellickson will start against CC Sabathia.

Larry Bowa, Charlie Manuel reflect on special bond with Dallas Green

Larry Bowa, Charlie Manuel reflect on special bond with Dallas Green

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- An impromptu homage to Dallas Green broke out on the field at the Phillies' spring training home Thursday morning.

Larry Bowa, who played for Green on the 1980 World Series championship team, was there.

So was Charlie Manuel, the only other manager other than Green to lead a Phillies team to a World Series title.

They told tales of Green's tough exterior and warm heart.

Bowa even shed a tear.

A couple of hours later, there were a few more tears in the stands as the team honored Green with a moment of silence the day after he died at 82.

Green's old jersey, No. 46, hung in the dugout for the Phillies-Twins game.

"It was tough last night," Bowa said. "I just couldn't believe it. This guy meant the world to us. We don't win a World Series without Dallas. It doesn't matter if we've got 10 Pete Roses, we don't win a World Series without Dallas. 

"He taught me a lot about being mentally tough and giving everything you have, every pitch, nine innings. Never quit. He was a guy that told our team, 'Look in the mirror. You're not as good as you think you are.' He said, 'Anybody can win divisions, go win a World Series. Put a ring on somebody's finger.'"

The Phillies had great talent in the late 1970s but always came one step short of the World Series. Green came in late in the 1979 season and was a stun gun to a complacent team. A year later, they were World Series champions.

"He said, 'I don't care what you did yesterday. What can you do today to help the Phillies win?' He got everybody's attention," Bowa said. "Yeah, we had a lot of give and take, screaming. I think everybody respected him. That's the bottom line. Eventually, when you get done playing, you realize how important he was to the Phillies in 1980."

Bowa was a critic of Green's in the lead up to the World Series. He recalled the give and take with the manager, which wasn't always sugar and spice and everything nice.

After one particularly poor game, Green left his office door open as he spoke with reporters. During the interview session, Green loudly questioned the team's desire and said the group was not as good as it thought it was. The players in the clubhouse heard it all because Green wanted them to -- and, of course, because his voice naturally boomed.

After Green's session with the media that night, a reporter approached Bowa and asked if he'd heard Green's loud commentary.

Of course, Bowa had heard it.

And he was fired up.

"Go ask Dallas how many games he won in the big leagues," Bowa told the writer, poking at Green's modest 20-22 record as a big-league pitcher.

When the writer informed Green of Bowa's barb, Green responded with a loud, "Touche, Bo. Touche."

"He wanted you to hear things," Bowa said.

That was one of his ways of challenging people. And he really liked to challenge players. It was his way of inspiring and separating the weak from the strong.

Manuel compared that to one of his former managers, Billy Martin.

"He was like a Billy Martin kind of guy," Manuel said. "He'll tell you what he expects out of you, but at the same time, he'll tell you that you can't do something. That's a big challenge to you. When you show him that you can do it, that's when he's on your side and he thinks the world of you. That's the time you become his guy."

Manuel became Green's guy after the two had a public spat in 2006. In a radio interview, Green, then a member of the team's front office, had criticized the way Manuel's Phillies were playing. In particular, he said the team lacked fundamentals. Manuel was furious that a member of the front office would criticize him publicly. A month or so later, as the Phillies rallied themselves into wild-card contention, Manuel and Green came face to face on the field before a game at Citizens Bank Park.

Manuel unloaded on Green.

And Green took his medicine.

From that confrontation, respect and understanding grew. Manuel and Green became great friends and frequent dinner partners. A few years later, Green admitted to a reporter that he was wrong for scuffing Manuel and he thanked Manuel for showing him that there are other ways to run a team than just the way he did it.

"I showed him," Manuel said. "When I look back, maybe he was testing me. But I understood him and I think at the end he felt he understood me."

On the night the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, Manuel and Green, members of an elite, two-man club, sat in Manuel's office and reflected.

"He was very happy," Manuel said. "Him and I had a few drinks of VO. I think I outdrank him, really. But, of course, when he won back in 1980 he would have outdrank me.

"Everything about it was good. He was just as happy as I was and I can't tell you how happy I was.

"He was always around and he definitely pulled for the Phillies day in and day out.

"Baseball's going to miss Dallas Green.

"I'm going to miss him."