As the unofficial 2nd half of the 2013 baseball season begins Friday night the Phils open up a nine-game road trip against a rebuilding NY Mets team. With only 66 games remaining these next nine games should give us a good indication as to the Phils playoff aspirations and how Ruben Amaro Jr. will proceed as the trade deadline approaches. With the Mets up first, the Cardinals on deck and the Tigers in the hole it’s important the Phils leave NY with at least two W’s.
On Friday night the Phils send Kyle Kendrick, 8-6 3.68 up against right-hander Jeremy Hefner, 4-6 3.39. Kendrick has been somewhat erratic this year but is 2nd in wins on the Phils staff. Kendrick was hit hard in two of his last three outings (11 IP, 21 H 9 ER) resulting in Phils losses, but rebounded with a strong effort against the Braves where he went 7 innings giving up just 1 earned run. Hefner, 4-6 3.33 has pitched well his last three outings. He went 7 innings each game allowing just 9 hits and 4 ER total while going 2-0 with 1 ND. Kendrick beat Hefner back in April as Hefner only lasted 3 innings and gave up 6 ER. He returned the favor in June outdueling Cole Hamels 4-3. While Hefner gave up 10 hits in 6 innings that game he was only tagged for 2 ER and was credited with the win.
On Saturday the Phils start one of 2013’s bigger disappointments Cole Hamels, 4-11 4.05 against the Mets recent call up, rookie right-hander Zack Wheeler, 3-1 3.54. Hamels has seemingly turned the corner his last 3 starts going 2-0 with a ND in 3 Phils victories. He’s pitching deeper into the games going 8 full his last two outings; giving a depleted and inexperienced bullpen a break. Wheeler, the 6th pick in the 2009 draft acquired from SF for Carlos Beltran in 2011 has pitched like a rookie with high expectations. Wheeler routinely throws around 95/96 mph and has a plus curve ball. His need to develop a third pitch, most likely the change up will determine if he lives up to the high expectations placed on him. He’s not giving the Mets many innings yet but did go 7 strong his last outing against the fading Giants, allowing just 3 hits and 1ER. The Phils need to knock Wheeler off his game early by taking pitches. His 5.1/9 BB ratio makes him prone to early exits.
On Sunday we’ll see a premier pitching matchup of two of the NL’s best pitchers. Cliff Lee 10-3 2.86 takes on Mets phenom Matt Harvey, 7-2 2.35. Lee has been a true staff ace this season leading the Phils starting pitchers in just about every statistical category. Lee will need to bring his best stuff to the mound Sunday as the Phils have lost twice to Harvey this season, managing just 5 hits and 1 ER against the Mets flamethrower in the two losses. While Lee has had an excellent season his last three starts leave something to be desired. The Phils are 1-2 in those starts with Lee going 1-1 with 1 ND. The number that stands out in these games is Lee’s ERA – 4.86. Harvey is having an incredible year leading the NL in K’s, 2nd in WHIP and 4th in ERA. He rarely beats himself as demonstrated by his 28 BB’s and 7 HR’s allowed. That said the Mets have not fared well in Harvey’s last 3 starts going 1-2, with Harvey’s record being 0-1 with 2 ND’s.
If the Phils are going to contend they have to be able to beat good pitchers. Currently they’re 1-8 against pitchers who were named to this year’s All Star Game. They have to do better if they want us to believe there’s one last run from the core Amaro is trying to milk across the finish line.