The Mets (4-2) find themselves in the unexpected, yet familiar spot of looking up at the Braves following a disappointing weekend series at Turner Field. After an 11-1 pounding during the opener, the Mets bats were, for the most part, silenced by Brave pitching. That’s acceptable when you face off against John Smoltz, less so against Kyle Davies. The bats will have to do better as the team faces their first series against another division rival in the Philadelphia Phillies (1-5) when the team comes home for the first time this year. Luckily for the Mets, the Phils aren’t nearly as hot as the Braves—they were swept by Atlanta in their opening series and managed just one win against the Florida Marlins over the weekend. The Phils are sending Cole Hamels (0-0, 0.00), Adam Eaton (0-1, 13.50), and Jamie Moyer (1-0, 2.70) to the mound against John Maine (1-0, 0.00), Oliver Perez (1-0, 1.29), and Tom Glavine (1-1, 2.38), respectively.
Game 1: Cole Hamels
What’s the Story? Believe it or not, Cole Hamels is the most important part of the Phillies’ rotation. His ascension from rookie to a top-of-rotation starting pitcher will have more to do with the Phillies’ success this season than many of their more publicized acquisitions. Last season Hamels pitched wonderfully, going 9-8 with a 4.08 ERA and 145 strikeouts against just 48 walks over 132 innings. That is when he pitched at all; a faulty shoulder sidelined him midseason. A tall lefty, Hamels has a fastball that sits in the low-90’s with good movement and a changeup that is simply devastating, possessing superior downward movement. A solid curveball gives him a very capable third weapon.
Last Year: Hamels got one start against the Mets last year, throwing eight shutout frames and striking out nine while allowing just four hits. The only Met hitter who seemed to have his number was Lastings Milledge, who singled and doubled off the left-hander. It’s unlikely he’ll get the start with Shawn Green playing as well as he is right now.
What to Expect: Hamels was brilliant in his season debut last Wednesday, shutting out the Braves for seven innings before the bullpen blew the game for him in the eleventh inning. Expect Hamels to go right after hitters with his fastball, and finish them with his changeup. He rarely needed to do anything else against the Braves, who managed to get a count with three balls just twice all game. That changeup is a great weapon against batters from either side of the plate, so righties won’t have as much of an advantage as they would against most other lefties. It’s probably beneficial for hitters to swing at those fastballs early in the count, because they won’t do much against the change.
Game 2: Adam Eaton
What’s the Story? Eaton signed a surprising three-year, 24.5 million-dollar contract to pitch for the Phillies last offseason after an injury-plagued year in Texas. Eaton has pretty good stuff, including a moving fastball that he throws from 91-93 miles per hour, a sharp curveball, and a fair changeup and slider. He occasionally has control problems, though whether that’s due from being perpetually injured or just poor control is difficult to ascertain. This was evident in his first start last week, as he walked four batters over four-and-two-thirds innings and was constantly behind batters. He also has problems with the homerun, giving up eleven in 65 innings last year.
Last Year: Eaton hasn’t pitched against the Mets since 2004, but he is 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA in three career starts against them.
What to Expect: Eaton’s a talented guy who is often not at 100% and when he is, he has trouble putting everything together to become the pitcher he’s capable of being. The Mets are the sort of team who could give him fits, patiently waiting for him to fall behind so he can throw a hitter’s pitch. If his command is sharp, he’ll be a tough guy to face, but otherwise the key is patience. He also shows a significant platoon split, so he’ll need to be careful around the big left-handed bats in the Mets’ lineup to be successful. A flyball pitcher, he’ll do better at Shea than he otherwise would at Citizen’s Bank Park.
Game 3: Jamie Moyer
What’s the Story? Moyer, the forty-four-year-old wonder, has proven that a pitcher doesn’t need “stuff” to succeed. You can get by with great control, a lot of guile, and changing speeds. In fact, looking just at what he throws doesn’t do him justice. His fastball is lucky to hit 83 on a gun, and it’s flat as can be. His curveball is merely adequate, and his change doesn’t have a lot of movement. But Moyer has a tremendous feel for pitching that has given him a shelf life that even surpasses that of most garden-variety lefties. He hits his spots and changes speeds with the best of them, forcing hitters to face him on his own terms.
Last Year: Moyer made one start against the Mets at the end of August and was killed. He allowed seven runs (five earned) on nine hits over six innings. Carlos Delgado in particular has Moyer’s number: in 66 plate appearances against him, he has a career .456/.530/.946 line. Last year he went 2-3 with a double and a pair of RBI’s.
What to Expect: Expect Moyer to do what he always does. He’ll try his hardest to get ahead of hitters, changing speeds from slow to slower to slowest. While aggression is often a good thing with finesse pitchers who like to stay in the strike zone, with Moyer a hitter still needs to stay cautious, as he’ll throw the changeup on any count, at any time. He can still take advantage of the hitters who are too aggressive. It’s really quite suiting that he’ll be pitching against Tom Glavine, his closest analog in baseball.
Overall: It’s tough to see the Phillies taking this one. They’re playing awful baseball, losing five out of their first six games, and as much as the Mets have had the momentum sapped from them after two tough games in Atlanta, they’re still in better shape than the reeling Phils. If the Mets were facing the top of the Philadelphia rotation instead of the bottom, I would expect more of a fight, but as it is, I think the Mets will take two out of three. I’m still picking a bit of an upset, as I think the Mets will get to Hamels—just a feeling—but lose to Eaton in the second game. In the battle for the title of Grandfather Time, Glavine emerges victorious with some help from Delgado.