The Phils (71-81) play host to the NY Mets (68-84) in the final home series of the season. Coming into Friday night’s game the Phils are 9-7 against the 4th place Mets. It’s been a long and frustrating season for the Phils and their fans. The team endured their share of injuries and more, as six players from their projected starting eight have been on the DL, some for extended periods of time. Of the five starting pitchers they broke camp with only Cole Hamels took the ball every 5th day, though Lee and Kendrick will each end up with 30 or more starts.
Ryne Sandberg inherited a mess, but has the team trying to end the season on an up note. Since taking over the Phils on August 16th they’ve gone 18-14 under Ryno, who still carries the interim manager tag. That should end soon. I don’t know what else Ryno needs to show the brass to prove he’s earned a shot at managing in the big leagues.
On Friday night the Phils send Cole Hamels 8-13, 3.48 ERA to the mound against reclamation project Daisuke Matsuzaka 1-3, 6.12 ERA. Dice-K entered the league with great fanfare back in 2007 after the Red Sox posted over $51,000,000 for the rights to negotiate with the former Seibu Lion of the Japanese Professional Baseball League. On top the posting fee, his agent Scott Boras was able to negotiate a 6-year, $52,000,000 contract with Boston.
After a decent first season with the Sox, Dice-K went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA in his second season. Since then Dice-K has struggled with command issues and injuries, going 18-25 with a 5.58 ERA over the past five years. After just eight lackluster starts in 2011, Matsuzaka required Tommy John surgery. He made 11 starts last year in his first comeback attempt, but was shelled to the tune of a 8.28 ERA. After a brief stint this year playing for Cleveland’s AAA affiliate the Columbus Clippers, he asked for and received his release. Two days after his release, Dice-K signed on with the Mets, where he’s been less than impressive.
After pitching poorly the first half of the season Hamels has pitched like the ace he’s paid to be. In his last 14 starts Hamels is 6-2 with a 2.32 ERA. Even more impressive than the low ERA is the number of WG’s he’s pitched (WG = winnable game. A SP must go 7+ IP with 2 or less ER). Hamels has thrown 11 WG’s in his last 14 starts. Only Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright and Cliff Lee have more. Considering Kershaw leads the league with 20 WG’s in 31 starts (64.5%), Hamels second half pitching becomes even more impressive, as his percentage of winnable games stands at 78.6% since July 4th. The Phils have won the last seven games Hamels has started and he’s been the pitcher of record in four of those games.
In the middle game the Phils will hand the ball to Tyler Cloyd 2-5, 5.06 ERA to take on the under rated Dillon Gee 11-10, 3.47 ERA. Gee is 0-2 against the Phils this year with a ND, which the Mets also lost. Gee’s thrown 11 WG’s and has been on a roll lately. He comes into Citizens Bank Park Saturday night with a 2-0 record in his last three starts. Over the three games Gee has a 2.18 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP.
Gee’s 2nd half has shown much improvement, as 103 of the 185 inning he’s pitched have come in his last 15 starts. He also has a 2.36 ERA the last 15 times out, which shows marked improvement over the 4.82 ERA he had in the first half as well. Over the course of the 27 year-old righty’s career he’s just 2-3 against the Phils, with a 7.66 ERA and a 1.724 WHIP. The Phils have had Gee’s number to date, but this will be his first start against the Phils in this season’s 2nd half, where Gee has really stepped it up. It will be interesting to see how he pitches with raised confidence against a team he’s had so little previous success against.
Cloyd has lost his last 3 starts and had a no decision squeezed in during the Phils 18-inning game against Arizona last month. Cloyd’s last two starts he’s been shelled for 19 hits and 12 ER in just eight innings of work. Perhaps the Mets will be just what Cloyd needs to get in a groove. The Mets are 6-12 in September and have scored just 47 runs, while allowing 88 this month. Since trading Marlon Byrd and John Buck to the Pirates there’s very little pop left in the Mets lineup.
The final home game of the season should provide the best pitching match up of the series. The Phils have Cliff Lee 14-6, 2.95 on the mound. He’ll be opposed by Mets impressive rookie Zach Wheeler 7-5, 3.42 ERA. Wheeler is 0-1 against the Phils on the season with a ND. In 11.1 innings the hard throwing righty has a 3.17 ERA against the Phils. In his last three starts Wheeler is 0-2 with a ND while pitching to a 3.70 ERA. With the lack of offense in the Mets lineup it’s getting tougher and tougher for Mets pitchers to pile up wins.
It doesn’t get any easier when Cliff Lee is on the mound. Lee’s 16 WG’s is tied for 2nd in the NL, and in each of his last three starts the seasoned Lee has thrown a WG, limiting opponents to 5 ER over 24 innings for a 1.87 ERA and 0.666 WHIP. Lifetime Lee is 6-2 against the Mets with a 2.40 ERA and a 1.017 WHIP. This year Lee is 2-1 against Mets, and while his ERA is a little higher than his lifetime number, his WHIP is lower. No matter how you look at it he’s always been difficult on the Phils neighbor to the north.
This is Lee’s third straight year going over the 200 innings pitched and 200 SO’s. Consistent excellency is what he was signed for…and Lee has lived up to the massive contract he signed prior to the 2011 season.
With the 2013 season winding down the Phils are looking forward to 2014. In a season full of turmoil, injuries, auditions, a dismissed manager and their first losing season since 2002, the only place to look is to the future. With Lee and Hamels in the fold the Phils feel the rotation is well anchored. That’s one thing they’re not wrong about. This weekend we get one more up close and personal look at the two lefty aces who will sit atop next years rotation.