Tonight at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, the New York Mets will visit the Philadelphia Phillies to start a three-game series. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM.
So far this season, both teams have received good performances from their pitching staffs (the Mets more surprisingly so) while struggling to put runs on the board. If you haven’t heard already, the Phils have been without both Ryan Howard and Chase Utley because of lower body ailments. Howard tore his left Achilles tendon on his very last swing of the 2011 postseason, while Utley is battling chronic knee pains that also held him out of the beginning of last year’s regular season.
In place of their two injured stars, the Phllies have had to put up with replacement-level production from Freddy Galvis at second base and from a cavalcade of mediocre players at first base. Although Galvis is a very good on defense, he only hit .273/.326/.400 at AA Reading last season and doesn’t figure to be a huge threat on offense right away. That said, the youngster has base hits in his last three games and is now 3 for 20 on the season with a pair of doubles.
First base has been a bigger problem because it’s a position that asks for major offensive production. In an effort to fill the Howard void, the Philles brought in the right-handed former Met (and former everything else) Ty Wigginton as well as lefties Jim Thome and Laynce Nix to compete for playing time. AAA corner outfielder John Mayberry Jr. has also seen time at first base for the Phils, but nothing seems to be working so far.
There’s no use trying to find out who will play first base tonight, because opponents usually throw the book out the window when R.A. Dickey and his knuckleball are on the hill. However, it’s worth noting that in the Phils’ series this week versus Miami, Charlie Manuel penciled in Mayberry Jr. at first base against righties Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez and in left field against the lefty Mark Buehrle. It was Wiggnton who played first against Buehrle, while speedster Juan Pierre played left field and batted lead-off against the righties.
In 14 innings versus the Phillies last season, tonight’s starter R.A. Dickey allowed five runs (3.21 ERA) and three walks while striking out nine. In his first start this season — last week against the Braves — Dickey had a little bit of trouble with his control and walked four batters, but he was able to get through six innings with only two runs allowed on a Martin Prado home run.
The Mets will have to deal with Cliff Lee tonight. The outstanding lefty allowed one run in six innings versus Pittsburgh in his first 2012 start. Last season against the Mets, Lee allowed just one run in 14 innings while striking out 12 and walking five.
If the Mets could get David Wright back tonight, that would be a big help against Lee, but right now all we know is that Wright will be testing his injured pinky today.
Update: Wright is out of the lineup. Justin Turner will bat third, which is kind of scary. Still no word on if Wright will be going on the disabled list or not.
Like I said yesterday, the Mets will have to hope Dickey is throwing a good knuckleball today because runs are likely going to be hard to come by.