After being embarrassed by the Blue Jays in a four-game series sweep, the Phillies head to Citi Field to take on the floundering Mets, who were just swept by the Marlins.
The Phillies' rotation seemed to line up perfectly for winning a home-and-home series with Toronto. Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and a red-hot A.J. Burnett pitching three of the four games? That sounded like a winning combo.
But those pitchers gave up 18 runs in 18.1 innings — Kyle Kendrick actually tossed a quality start in the series' second game — and the Phillies were outscored 31-11 and shut out twice by the Blue Jays.
Good riddance, Canada.
Roberto Hernandez (2-1, 4.50) taking the mound following his best start of the season in a pitcher's paradise sounds welcoming. And it'll come against an ice-cold Mets offense, which has been shutout in two straight games.
New York has lost six of seven overall after a road trip in Colorado and Miami. Three of its last four defeats came in its opponents' final at-bat.
Young righty Jenrry Mejia (3-0, 5.23) gets the ball for the Mets.
• The Mets' 23-inning scoreless streak is the franchise's longest since a 24-inning drought in July 2010.
• David Wright is hitting .373 with five homers and 12 RBIs in his last dozen games against the Phillies, of which the Mets have won five straight.
• The only Mets who've faced Hernandez more than three times are Curtis Granderson (17 for 41, nine XBH) and Bobby Abreu (5 for 23, 6 BB, 0 K).
• Phillies vs. Mejia: Combined 7 for 14 as a team, including a homer from Ryan Howard.
• Fireballer Ken Giles was promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Friday after striking out 29 in 15 innings with Reading.
Believe it or not, Cody Asche will start at third vs. southpaw Mark Buehrle on Wednesday ... and Ryan Howard will get the night off.
All is took was the baserunning gaffe of the year, a botched play at shortstop and an 0-for-2 day at the plate for Freddy Galvis, combined with a 4-for-4 night and a game-tying grand slam for Asche for Asche -- finally -- to get the start at third base against a left-handed starter.
Asche has been crushing the ball recently and is 9 for 22 with three doubles, two homers and eight RBIs in his last eight games.
It's the first time he's in the lineup against a lefty starter since the second series of the year against the Cubs.
And even with the designated hitter creating room for a ninth bat in the order, Howard, who's 8 for 37 vs. LHP this season, will sit in favor of John Mayberry Jr.
Jimmy Rollins will get another day off from the field, but he'll serve as the DH and Jayson Nix will man shortstop. Rollins has started only once as a DH -- July 1, 2011 in Toronto -- and he went 0 for 4.
Cliff Lee (3-2, 3.00) opposes Buehrle (5-1, 2.25) at the Rogers Centre.
Cole Hamels goes for his first win Tuesday as the Phillies aim to rebound from an ugly 3-0 loss to the Blue Jays the night before.
And he'll be pitching on a full week of rest, after having his start pushed back two days because of the flu.
Drew Hutchinson (1-2, 3.82) takes the mound for Toronto. He's coming off his longest outing of the year in which he gave up four runs in seven innings against the Royals.
The Phillies, whose bats have fallen into yet another slump, have scored just 14 runs over the past six games. During that span, they're 7 for 47 with runners in scoring position.
Luckily, Jimmy Rollins is expected to be back after having yesterday off, so Freddy Galvis can reassume his spot on the bench.
Hamels has never beaten the Jays, although he hasn't faced them since 2010. He's 0-2 vs. Toronto with a 6.75 ERA in three starts.
• A win for Hamels would be the 100th of his career.
• Ex-Met Jose Reyes, who led off Monday with a homer, is 14 for 24 vs. Hamels since 2010.
• Key matchups for Hamels: Jose Reyes (22 for 56, 6 2B), Melky Cabrera (6 for 17, HR), Jose Bautista (1 for 6, 3K)
• The Blue Jays have yet to win three in a row this season.
Jimmy Rollins is off (but available to pinch hit), and Freddy Galvis is starting at shortstop and batting second as the Phillies open a four-game, home-and-home series with the Blue Jays.
It's probably a good thing to be cautious and hold Jimmy Rollins out of the lineup on Monday night after the 35-year-old appeared to tweak something in his leg during yesterday's 1-0 win over the Nationals.
It's probably not a good thing to bat Freddy Galvis second in Rollins' absence with the Phillies on a roll after taking two of three from the Nationals over the weekend.
Freddy Galvis hasn't had a hit since April 20. He's hitless in his last 24 at-bats. He's 1 for 31 on the season overall. But he'll bat between Ben Revere and Chase Utley tonight.
Presumably, Ryne Sandberg is hoping the protection of Utley batting after him will get Galvis' bat going.
Going where exactly? That's not clear. Maybe somewhere in the area code of Galvis' career slash line of .216/.256/.350.
Left-handers Domonic Brown (.243/.301/.311) and Cody Asche (.221/.293/.368) will also sit in favor of John Mayberry Jr. (.167/.286/.333) and Jayson Nix (.182/.229/.273).
At least it's dollar dog night.
Kyle Kendrick (0-2, 3.52) opposes J.A. Happ (0-0, 4.15) at 7 p.m.
The Phillies can only run from their porous bullpen for so long.
Because eventually, leaky relief will rear its ugly head and dash any hopes the club had at rekindling the 2007-11 magic.
History shows that a bad bullpen typically means no postseason.
After the Phils' relief corps blew its sixth game — tied for second-most in baseball this season — in a disheartening 5-3 loss to the Nationals on Friday, the team’s bullpen ERA spiked to an NL-worst 5.07.
If the trend continues, the chances of Ryne Sandberg’s crew making the playoffs — or even contending — are faint.
From 1995 — the first complete season when both the NL and AL were divided into three divisions with four teams from each league qualifying for the postseason — to 2013, only seven clubs out of 78 total National League playoff-qualifying teams (5.5 percent) have made the postseason with a bullpen ERA ranked in the bottom five of the NL.
Of those seven teams, only one made it past the NLDS (Cardinals – 2000) before losing in the NLCS.
The seven teams and respective bullpen marks:
• Rockies (2009, 92-70) won wild card with fourth-worst NL ERA (4.53)
• Phillies (2007, 89-73) won NL East with fourth-worst NL ERA (4.50)
• Braves (2005, 90-72) won NL East with fifth-worst NL ERA (4.74)
• Diamondbacks (2002, 98-64) won NL West with third-worst NL ERA (4.60)
• Cardinals (2000, 95-67) won NL Central with fifth-worst NL ERA (4.84)
• Cubs (1998, 90-73) won wild card with fourth-worst NL ERA (4.40)
• Giants (1997, 90-72) won NL West with fourth-worst NL ERA (4.75)
• Rockies (1995, 77-67) won wild card with second-worst NL ERA (4.64)
This season, the Marlins own the NL’s fifth-worst bullpen with an ERA of 3.80 — substantially better than the Phils.
Yes, it is early, but Phillies relievers have shown no signs of patching up gaping holes. The bats could mash and the starters could dominate, but until the bullpen proves it can do its job, the Phils are as far from the postseason as anybody.
Whatever momentum the Phillies may have built after a strong West Coast road trip has waned after three of four days off, but they reshuffled the rotation for an important three-game set against the Nats.
Friday: Cliff Lee (3-2, 3.29) vs. Stephen Strasburg (2-2, 4.24)
Saturday: A.J. Burnett (1-1, 2.15) vs. Tanner Roark (2-0, 2.76)
Sunday: Cole Hamels (0-2, 6.75) vs. Gio Gonzalez (3-1, 3.25)
Despite finishing April .500, the Phillies still find themselves in the basement of the NL East. But they'll have a prime opportunity to climb the standings this month, with 21 of the next 29 games at home.
The Nationals enter without Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, who are both on the disabled list. Still, Washington features a stacked lineup with Jayson Werth (.288/.383/.462), Adam LaRoche (.312/.413/.495) and Anthony Rendon (.316/.352/.544) swinging hot bats.
• Against the Phils last year, Strasburg allowed only one run and 11 hits in 23 innings. He struck out 29, walked three and picked up two wins.
• Hot Nats: Rendon is 11 for 23 with five extra-base hits in his last five games. Werth is hitting .371 in his past eight.
• Key matchups for Lee: Werth (10 for 28, 2 HR, 9 K), Danny Espinosa (7 for 19, 3 HR)
• Key matchups for Strasburg: Jimmy Rollins (2 for 18, HR, 7 K), Chase Utley (1 for 9), Carlos Ruiz (3 for 8, HR)
• Lee is allowing right-handed batters to hit a whopping .333 against him (43 for 129) with eight doubles, two triples and two homers.