The Philadelphia Phillies (65-52) enter this week after a frustrating (2-4) road trip out west and tied with the Braves for first place in the NL East. The team has to take advantage of this upcoming week where they could really make some headway. Starting on Tuesday, they face the MLB-best Red Sox (85-35) for a two-game set and then stay in South Philly to take on the Mets (49-66) in a rare five game series from Thursday to Monday. The Mets series features a doubleheader on August 16 and then a game in Williamsport, PA on August 19.
Phillies vs. Red Sox: August 14-15
Taking on the Red Sox is not going to be an easy task. Boston’s record speaks for itself and what they did to the Yankees earlier this month (sweeping them 4-0) showed their unlimited fire power. Boston has scored the most runs (655), recorded the most hits (1122), and boasts the best batting average (.270) in baseball. Their pitchers are no joke either. They have the second-best ERA (3.52) and their pitchers have recorded the third most strikeouts (1144) in the MLB. Needless to say, this could be a tough couple games for the Phils. They will most likely turn to Nick Pivetta (7-9, 4.51 ERA) and Vince Velasquez (8-9, 3.98 ERA);both have shown dominance but can be very inconsistent. Last time the Phillies played the Sox, the Phils had the ability to turn to their two best starters, Aaron Nola and Jake Arietta, who were able to neutralize Boston’s potent offense and split the series 1-1. Do not be surprised if the Phils drop these two games and head into their series versus New York with a (65-54) record and a game or so back of the Braves.
Phillies vs. Mets: August 15-19
The next five games this coming week are where Philadelphia has a chance to really make up some ground from their poor road trip to the West Coast and potentially poor series against the Red Sox. The Mets enter this week after taking two of three from Miami, putting them in 4th place in the NL East. The Phils have a (3-5) record against the sputtering Mets this year and have a real chance to pull ahead in the season series. Philly is likely to hand the ball to all of its starters in this five game mega-series, barring injury or calling up a pitcher to make a spot start. The order should go Zach Eflin (8-4, 3.57 ERA), Aaron Nola (13-3, 2.28 ERA), Jake Arietta (9-7, 3.33 ERA), Nick Pivetta (7-9, 4.51 ERA), and Vince Velasquez (8-9, 3.98 ERA). It is still unclear which Mets will start each day, but here is a possible order: Jason Vargas (2-8, 8.75 ERA), Noah Syndergaard (8-2, 3.22 ERA), Jacob deGrom (6-7, 1.77 ERA), Zack Wheeler (7-6. 3.82 ERA), and Corey Oswalt (1-2, 5.03 ERA). So, the Fightin’ Phils will get to face the best and the worst the Mets have to offer. As seen above, Cy Young candidate Jacob deGrom has a stunningly good ERA and Jason Vargas has an absolutely putrid ERA. The Mets are also arguably the worst offense in the MLB with a .229 team batting average and have scored the fourth least runs in baseball (448).
Why Williamsport?: August 19
The finale of the Mets’ series takes place in Williamsport, PA at BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field for the MLB Little League Classic. The Little League Classic was started last year and is held around the culmination of the Little League World Series. The Pirates defeated the Cardinals last year 6-3. The stadium the game also happens to be played in the home of the Phillies’ low-A affiliate, the Williamsport Crosscutters. The ballyard has a capacity of just 2,366. This should allow for an intimate and hopefully home-like atmosphere for the Phils. My optimistic prediction is that the Phils go (4-1) in this series, including winning in Williamsport, and end the week with a (69-55) record, hopefully good enough to be in first place in the NL East.
Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports