It will be easy to tune out the last-place Phillies during this July 4 holiday week, but Philadelphia still has a professional baseball team. They have uniforms and everything.
The Fightins begin a three-game series in New York on Tuesday night against the surprising Metropolitans. Considered by many to be also-rans before the season even got underway, the Mets are currently second in the NL East with a 43-37 record, 3.5 back of the Washington Nationals. They are also just 0.5 out of a Wild Card.
As we close in on the All-Star break, it would probably be fair to say the Mets are for real.
They certainly have had their way with the Phils this year, taking six of nine so far, including a sweep at Citizens Bank Park. The good guys pulled out a series win at Citi Field in their last meeting though.
New York features one of the most potent offenses in the league. Ranked third in runs scored, they don't mash a ton of home runs, or even bat for a high average. The Mets do draw a lot of walks however, with two of the NL leaders for bases on balls in their everyday lineup -- all-star 3B David Wright (3rd) and RF Lucas Duda (10th).
Of course, Wright can hit the cover off the ball too. Just named to his sixth All-Star Game, he's in among the league leaders in a slew of categories, notably batting average, on-base-percentage, slugging, runs scored, and runs batted in.
Keeping those guys off the base paths falls on Vance Worley (4-4, 2.92), but when he faced the Mets back on April 14, he issued a season-high four passes. That wasn't what hurt him so much though -- it was the long ball. Wright and Duda both went yard, as Worley surrendered four runs through six in a loss. The Phils were blanked 5-0.
Lifetime, Worley is 3-2 with a 3.60 ERA in seven appearances against the Mets. He's not fared well at Citi Field in particular, where he's 1-1 with a 6.30.
The Mets toss a young pitcher of their own. Lefty Jonathon Niese (6-3, 3.55) is becoming a dependable piece in a solid rotation. In the midst of his third full season in the big leagues, the 25 year old has faced the Phillies more than any team in his career, going 4-4 and 3.86 over 11 starts.
Niese has the upper-hand in 2012 as well, with a 1-0 record in three starts, but the Phils may be catching up with him. He was chased after five innings in each of the past two head-to-heads, a pair of no-decisions in May where he walked nine batters and sported a 5.40 ERA.
It's good news whenever you knock a Mets starter out of the game. They own the worst bullpen in Major League Baseball.
We're choosing John Mayberry for tonight's standout performer. In 22 at bats versus Niese, Mayberry is batting .318 with three bombs and seven RBI. He's batting eighth, so he may only see Niese twice -- but that might be plenty.
#PHILLIES lineup: Rollins, Polly, Utley, Chooch, Pence, Vic, Wiggy, Mayberry, Worley
— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) July 3, 2012