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The Phillies begin a trek through the NL East today, starting with the surprisingly hot New York Mets. Their six-game winning streak was snapped by the Washington Nationals last night behind a strong start from Livan Hernandez. The Mets have benefited from the incredible production of Ike Davis and a strong bullpen, covering up a lackluster starting rotation. Meanwhile, the Phillies only recently broke out of an offensive slump and will look to overpower the Mets in the upcoming three-game set.
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1. The Mets have gone on a roll recently, although their six-game winning streak came to a halt last night. To what do you attribute the success?
Part one is timing; they caught a so-so Diamondbacks club that was regressing to their mean and when their bullpen was a little shorthanded. Then they went to DC to play a terrible Nationals team that was further decimated by the absences of Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman and the idiotic managing of Jim Riggleman. Part two is that the Mets’ offense woke up, possibly sparked by the return of Jason Bay. Bay, Ike Davis, and David Wright are red-hot, and nearly everyone else in the lineup is hitting well lately — in particular, Jose Reyes, Dan Murphy, and Carlos Beltran, who despite making a lot of outs recently is getting good at-bats and hitting the ball hard. And the bullpen is suddenly pitching lights-out, though I attribute some of that to the slumping opposing hitters.
2. I think everyone who follows baseball is amazed at just how good Ike Davis has been. Is this a breakout year for him?
I hope so. It’s early and Ike is red-hot right now. He’s been going to left field frequently and that’s definitely helped his batting average. If he keeps doing that he may be able to avoid the streakiness that comes with his long swing.
3. David Wright catches a lot of heat in New York, but has been producing thus far. Is any of the criticism justified, or is he just a pariah as a result of the team’s recent misery?
David Wright will forever have “haters”, and part of it is because the Mets have positioned him as the face of the franchise and the franchise has yet to win a pennant since he’s been in New York. It doesn’t help that in the past two years Wright has been more streaky than ever before and he seems to pick up more detractors when he’s cold. Another part of the negativity is due to Wright not being perceived as leader. The Mets have not had enough strong personalities who give the press good stories and you need to have those types playing in the media capital of the world. Due to his ability to provide story-worthy quotes, R.A. Dickey has been a media darling and as a result is perceived by the public as a “leader”. In contrast, Wright has always provided the “right” quotes — you know, the typical cliches — and as a result is a boring interview and ergo, not seen by fans as a leader. In New York, you can’t get away with that unless you are getting “clutch” hits in World Series games. Wright regularly makes “big” plays and gets “clutch” hits but many fans tend to focus on his failures.
4. Carlos Beltran has been hitting well to start the season. Do you expect that to continue?
Yes. Beltran has been a great hitter for almost 15 years now and his bat speed and discipline are as good as they’ve ever been. You’ll notice he often gets close calls from the home plate umpires, which doesn’t hurt, either. The only question is whether his knees will hold up long enough to convince other teams he’s worth trading for at the deadline.
5. The Mets will go up against Vance Worley, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee. Assuming you enjoy the match-up against Worley, would you rather the Mets face Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels? What combination of Phillies’ starters is most favorable for the Mets?
Speaking as a Mets fan, I’d prefer to see Chad Ogea, Brandon Duckworth, and Andy Ashby. As a baseball fan and pitching coach, I very much look forward to these Mets-Phillies games precisely because I enjoy watching great pitchers like Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, and Hamels.
6. Do you buy the Marlins’ early-season success?
I do, and though I won’t make any predictions, I won’t be surprised if they keep up their current pace. Their pitching — both the rotation and the bullpen — is as solid and deep as any in the NL. Javy Vazquez is the only weak link they have on the entire staff, and if all the pitchers stay healthy, they should carry the team to at least 85-90 wins. Further, their offense has yet to really get going. A few guys are hitting over their heads, but Hanley Ramirez, John Buck, and Omar Infante are all slumping, and Mike Stanton hasn’t yet flashed his power. If they ever learn to play decent fundamental baseball and get a real third baseman, they could win the division.
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As usual, thanks to Joe for stopping by and answering some questions about the Mets. Make sure to visit Mets Today for news and analysis of the Mets during the season, and definitely check it out today to read my take on the Phillies for the Mets fans.