The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies square off in the final game of a three-game series on Sunday night. The Phillies are on fire having won eight of their last 10 games including winning their 18th game before May 1 (a franchise record).
The Mets, on the other hand, have lost three in a row and are looking to avoid getting swept for the second time this season (the Colorado Rockies swept a four-game series earlier this season).
The Mets will start Chris Young who is 2-1 with a 5.31 ERA in four career starts at Citizens Bank Park. Though he’s only made seven starts in 2010 and 2011, Young is undefeated at 3-0 in those starts. His last loss was June 14, 2009.
Chris Young Matchup to Watch
Raul Ibanez has reached in eight of his last 11 plate appearances against Young, dating to 2008 (2-for-3 against him in the first meeting this season).
The Phillies will counter with lefty Cliff Lee who has the highest strike percentage among starters this season (71.3). It’s also interesting to note that Lee has alternated double-digit strikeout games with single-digit strikeout games since the beginning of the season (had 12 last start).
One situation to keep an eye on Sunday is how Lee does with runners in scoring position. Opponents are hitting .379 with RISP against Lee this season, and dating back to when he was traded to the Texas Rangers, opponents are 36-for-their-last 101 versus Lee in the regular season in such spots.
Cliff Lee Matchup to Watch
Cleanup hitters are 7-for-14 with a home run and four strikeouts against Lee this season.
Now a look at the offensive keys for these two teams.
The problems that the Mets have had hitting home runs at Citi Field were not an issue in the opening month of the season. They hit 16 in 13 games, which put them on pace for 100 in 2011. However, there's a new power issue. In 14 road games, the Mets were out-homered, 17-7.
David Wright has especially struggled to find his swing as his .240 batting average would be a career low should he maintain this production for the rest of the season. It hasn’t helped that he’s hitting just .167 with two strikes, his lowest number over the past three seasons. The silver lining for Wright on Sunday may be that he’s done pretty well against Phillies pitching this season, going 8-for-21 (.381 BA) .
Jose Reyes will have to come up big for the Mets, and it is something he has done in the past. Reyes has 16 career home runs against the Phillies, which is the most versus any team (second-most is 10 versus the Atlanta Braves). He also is 29-for-86 (.337 BA) in his last 20 games versus the Phillies.
Speaking of the Phillies, they are relying heavily on Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard to account for the production loss left by Chase Utley’s absence. Howard has maintained his production, but Rollins has struggled to literally fill the hole.
Jimmy Rollins vs NL No. 3 Hitters
Rollins is hitting in the three-hole while Utley has been injured, but when comparing Rollins’ performance this year to how National League No. three batters performed as a group, Rollins’ doesn’t match up.
As for Howard, nobody has hit more home runs than the Phillies slugger since 2006 (233) and he especially loves hitting against the Mets. In fact only Pat Burrell and Chipper Jones have more home runs versus the Mets among active players than Howard’s 29 career home runs in 99 games.
Tune in at 8:00 Eastern on ESPN to see a battle between division rivals.