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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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 email@example.com