The Mets have been firing on all cylinders since their last series with the Phillies. It’s not the first time a meeting between these fierce rivals was followed by a massive momentum shift.
Before we preview this series, a little news to pass along. According to the New York Post, Mets closer Billy Wagner was diagnosed with an inflamed pitching shoulder by the team orthopedist and will undergo a cautionary MRI this morning. So far, it’s unclear whether Wagner will be ready for tonight’s game. According to the Post, Wagner had difficulty getting loose Sunday in Cincinnati, even though he would go on to strike out the side.
The teams begin a three-game series tonight at Shea Stadium locked in a tie for first in the National League East, with Florida just one game back. The last time these teams opened a series, the Phils squeaked out a 3-2 win on July 4th to extend their lead over the Mets to 5 1-2 games. The Mets would rebound the next night for the first of 10-straight wins.
The Mets view this as a brand new season. They've fought their way back into it, while the Phillies' own inability to score runs has certainly played a part. The Mets have put the first-half drama behind them and fans are feeling very good about their team for the first time since Omar Minaya traded for Johan Santana.
People have talked about their pitching, but the heart of their lineup has also turned the corner. Carlos Delgado, left for dead, is hitting .419 in July. Jose Reyes, another streaky player who felt the heat early, exploded for a big game Sunday and has his average back over .300. Carlos Beltran and David Wright are hitting again.
Their pitching has been the key to their resurgence, and Santana, who starts tonight's game, has obviously been in that mix. Although the wins aren’t there, he’s been excellent, and tonight’s game – a battle of division leaders – is the reason the Mets emptied the farm system for the dominant left-hander.
Aside from a pair of hiccups this weekend in Cincy, the Mets are riding high, while the Phils have basically reached their darkest hour. But if we’ve learned anything from this rivalry, it’s to expect the unexpected. Remember, it's a brand-new season for the Phillies, too.