Going into the all star break, the Phillies sat behind the Mets at 3.5 games out of the division and looked like they were turning the page. This Phillies team had its ups and downs, its inconsistencies, but eventually got hot and went on a roll to finish the first half 7-3 in their last 10 winning series against San Diego, Boston, and the Cubs before they traded their entire roster. In this second half of the season, more of the same has transpired. In the first four series after the break the Phillies took 3 out of 4 from Miami at home, dropped both games against the Yankees in the Bronx, and split both 4 game series in Citizens Bank Park vs. the Braves and Nationals. The Mets lead was starting to grow in the division and this team was starting to press heavily. We saw this especially in the first two games of the Pittsburgh series with this team playing easily it's worst two games of the season and it looked like winning the NL East was becoming a dream instead of a reality. After that Philadelphia has exploded to win its last 5 straight games and cut it's division deficit to the Mets to just a half game out of first. The Mets come to the bank this weekend to play the Phillies, the way this series goes will tell us who should be the favorite to win the NL East at this very moment.
Friday's contest is headlined by a pitching matchup of Marcus Stroman vs. Kyle Gibson. Stroman is having a strong year for the Mets in 22 starts posting a 7-10 record with an era of 2.80, 122 innings pitched, 101 strikeouts, and a whip of 1.13. Kyle Gibson on the other hand makes his home debut for the Phillies in this game. Gibson in an all star season with 20 starts to his name posts a 7-3 record with a 2.86 era, 119.2 innings pitched, 99 strikeouts, and a whip of 1.17. For both these guys throwing strikes, limiting hard contact, and keeping the ball in the ballpark will be the game plan. Both of these guys are very good at pitching to contact and getting there defense involved. Offense will be at a premium in this game and the team that manages to squeak out a few runs and get timely hits will be the team that wins this game.
For Saturday's ballgame, the story line is a bit different. Pitching in this game for the Mets is rookie right hander Tylor Megill. Megill comes into this contest with 8 starts under his belt posting a 1-1 record, an era of 2.68, 40.1 innings pitched, 43 strikeouts, and a whip of 1.12. For the Phillies, 25 year old left hander Ranger Suarez takes the ball. Suarez has been impressive in 28 games this year. Posting a 5-3 record with an era of 1.04. But with Suarez mostly all of his work has came out of the bullpen this year. Only making one start this year. That start came on Monday in Washington where he continued his excellence this year pitching 3 scoreless innings. The bullpen is going to be asked to do some heavy lifting in this game. That has not been good news all year for the Phillies. For the Mets to win this game, can the offense get back on track and can Megill continue his strong rookie year? For the Phillies can Suarez go a little deeper than 3 innings, can the bullpen pitch a strong game as well, and can the red hot Phillies offense be able to carry the team in this game?
For Sunday's match, the Phillies get there ace. Zack Wheeler takes the bump as he matches up with fellow 2021 all star Taijuan Walker. Wheeler has been of the best in baseball this season at his craft in 22 starts. Posting a 9-6 record with an era of 2.57, 147 innings pitched, 170 strikeouts and a whip of 1.03. It's very simple, if Wheeler is on Sunday then this game will be an absolute lock. But if he runs into trouble here comes Taijuan Walker. Over the first half of the year he had a career renaissance earning his first all star nod, but ever since the break it's looked like he has come back to earth. If he can turn in an all star quality start Sunday vs. the Phillies then this could be one of the best pitchers duels the Phillies get into all year. But look for the offense to tee off on Walker Sunday and for Wheeler to carve through his former teams lineup and make light work of this struggling Mets offense.
Overall, if your a Phillies fan you should feel great going into this series. The teams hot, you get Gibson and Wheeler in this series, and you don't have much ground to gain anymore on the Mets. As much the pitching headlines this series let's not overlook this Phillies offense. This group has been on another level this past week scoring 43 runs in there 5 game winning streak. But keep in mind it's against a depleted Pirates and Nationals rosters. This weekend will really tell us if the offense is truly a force to be reckoned with as we go down the stretch. So will there be a new NL East division leader come Sunday night? Only time will tell. The atmosphere at Citizens Bank Park is going to be electric, lets see if the Phillies rise to the occasion. First pitch is at 7:05 pm tonight Lets Go Phils!