After salvaging a split in the four-game series in Atlanta, the Phillies are back up north to take on the NL East-leading New York Mets for three games. The Phils will be in Queens, NY for three games. There is no overstating how paramount this series is for the Phillies. If they can come away with two wins or a sweep, they will be set up better for the stretch they endure after this series. If they drop this series, it could break the season.
After these three games, they play the defending NL West champion Giants, the Los Angeles Angels, and the NL Central-leading Brewers. How many of those series can the Phillies realistically win? If they find a way to play .500 ball and go 6-6, then the schedule lightens up and we could look for them to make a bit of run. Until then, they just have to stay above water.
Bringing it back to the present, the Phillies need their best players to be their best players this weekend. Bryce Harper has to continue to be an absolute force at the force. Kyle Schwarber has to start hitting the ball more. Nick Castellanos has to get going. There are ideas about giving him a day or two off because he’s brutal right now, but not in this series. Alec Bohm has to stay confident in the field and get hot at the plate. The bullpen can’t decide to blow the game again. Maybe most importantly, Joe Girardi can’t lose this team any games in this series. He did it again in Atlanta. He should have been fired a long time ago, but here we are.
Pitching matchups are set for the series. Tonight, the Mets will go with Carlos Carrasco (4-1, 3.50 ERA) and the Phillies will counter with Bailey Falter (0-1, 3.75 ERA). Falter is making a spot start because some of the Phillies’ starters may need an extra day before making their next start. Tomorrow night will feature Taijuan Walker (2-0, 2.70 ERA) for the Mets and Zach Eflin (1-3, 3.65 ERA) for the Phils. The Sunday game will be on ESPN as featured as Sunday Night Baseball. Zack Wheeler (3-3, 3.38 ERA) will go for the Phils, and the Mets have not announced a starter as of now.
Today, the Phillies sit at 21-24. The Mets are 29-17. They hold a 7.5-game lead over the Phillies and Braves, who also sit 21-24. Tonight is the 10th time the Phillies and Mets will play each other. This means they will meet only two more times after this series.
The keys to winning this series for the Phillies are consistent with what they’ve been all year. They can’t play themselves out of the game defensively like they did in Atlanta. Girardi has to manage the bullpen in a smart way. Blown saves are stats that measure relievers, but Girardi has had so many more blown saves than any one reliever in the Phillies bullpen from his awful decision-making over the last two-plus seasons. Finally, the Phillies need to hit the ball. Bailey Falter isn’t exactly going to shut down an elite offense. They have to put balls in play and make the Mets make plays.
A lot is at stake in this series for the Phillies. If they win it, they should have confidence going into the next nine games that they can beat playoff teams. If they lose it, it could really set a bad tone for the next week or two. This is why this series is a make-or-break one for the season.