The baseball season is about to enter its final month. Most of the division races are well in hand. But a few teams in each league still have a chance to make their October dreams come true by earning a spot in the wild card. Both the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies are two of the wild card hopefuls in the National League. But in order to make the postseason, they both need to get hot. The two teams battle this weekend in a wild card showdown.
New York Mets-Philadelphia Phillies Series Is Critical for Both Teams
The Mets Get Back in the Race
Jeff McNeil and rookie Pete Alonso were both having standout seasons. Jacob deGrom continued to pitch brilliantly. Despite those highlights, the Mets found themselves eleven games under .500 on July 12th. Nevertheless, they caught fire the next day, beginning a stretch that would see them win 21 out of 26 games to propel themselves right back into the race. They swept a three-game series with the Cleveland Indians last week to reach a season-high mark of 67-60. Since then, however, things appear to be coming apart.
The Atlanta Braves came to Queens last weekend and swept a three-game series. The Mets’ playoff hopes then took another body blow. They suffered a devastating sweep in a key home series against the Chicago Cubs. The Mets’ bats were red hot during their four-week surge, but have gone cold this week. They need to turn it around in Philadelphia, or their surprising playoff run may come to an end. The clash this weekend with Philly might be their last chance to right the ship.
The Phillies Need a Winning Streak
The Phillies had their own big winning streak early in the summer. They have, however, spent most of the second half treading water. The Phils started the second half three games over .500 at 47-44. They have also been three games over .500 since the All-Star break, posting a record of 22-19. They have had only two winning streaks of more than two games in the second half. One of those stretches involved a two-game series win over the woeful Detroit Tigers, so an argument can be made that those games were tantamount to forfeits. The Phillies head into the weekend having taken two of three from the Pittsburgh Pirates and need to do what they did the last time the Mets came to town — overpower a division rival while they are down.
Phils’ Ace Opens Series This Weekend
The first game of the series will see Zack Wheeler take the hill for the Mets and Aaron Nola toe the rubber for the Phillies. Wheeler posted consecutive scoreless outings in his first two starts in August. He has struggled ever since. He has allowed 12 earned runs in his last 16 innings over three starts, with his team losing two of those three games. Nola, on the other hand, has been the one dependable arm in the Phillies’ rotation. He leads all Phillies starters with a 3.54 ERA. He has allowed fewer than 4 earned runs in eight of his last ten starts, and his 12-4 record for the season is the staff’s best. The New York bats will have a hard time waking from their slumber against the Phillies’ ace.
Matz Looks to Stay Hot
Steven Matz takes the ball for New York in game two against his former teammate, Jason Vargas. Matz has been dominant over the last five weeks. He’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in six of his last seven starts. He threw a complete game shutout against Pittsburgh on July 27th. Vargas has been unremarkable but consistent, both early in the season with New York and since his trade to Philadelphia. He’s posted a 4.34 ERA for the Phillies, averaging about six innings per start. He has yet to win a game since the trade, but he won’t lack motivation going up against his former club this weekend.
Former Teammates Battle
The third game of the series will pit Mets newcomer Marcus Stroman against Zach Eflin. Stroman has pitched to a 4.91 ERA in five starts since being acquired on July 28th from the Toronto Blue Jays. He’s allowed five home runs in 25 innings for New York, while he only allowed 10 home runs in 124 innings for the Blue Jays in 2019. Eflin began the season well but struggled so badly throughout July that he found himself in the bullpen. He pitched well in a 9-3 win against the Marlins over the weekend, allowing only two earned runs over six innings. Eflin will hope to build on that start on Sunday while Stroman hopes to help pull the Mets out of their recent funk.
Clash This Weekend Is a Must-Win Series for Both Teams
The Phillies will begin the series 2 1/2 games behind the Cubs, who are currently in possession of the second wild card spot. The Mets find themselves five games behind Chicago after the series sweep this week. The clash this weekend is the most important series of the season for both teams to date. The winner of this series will take a little momentum into next weekend’s equally important series in New York.
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