The Philadelphia Phillies will be looking for a three-game series sweep against the visiting New York Mets on Sunday as right-hander Zack Wheeler faces his former team.
After going 11-8 with a 3.96 ERA for the Mets last season, Wheeler opted to sign a $118 million free agent contract with the team’s biggest National League East rival, the Phillies.
Wheeler has been quite effective for the Phillies in his first three starts, going 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA.
During the shutdown, Wheeler remained in shape and has carried that momentum into his initial season with the Phillies as their No. 2 starter behind Aaron Nola.
“It was my goal during the shutdown that it was time to be ready to go seven, eight innings, whatever it may be,” Wheeler said. “I didn’t want to be behind.”
After being swept by the Orioles to fall to 5-9, the Phillies have responded in a big way with consecutive victories against the Mets.
“We never quit,” right fielder Bryce Harper said. “We never die.”
Rhys Hoskins doubled and drove in three runs to key Saturday’s 6-2 win. Following an early season slump, Hoskins now has seven hits in his last 20 at-bats.
“I think we’ve got a little bit of confidence after these last two wins,” Hoskins said.
One player who has continued to scuffle is Scott Kingery. Before the season, Kingery dealt with a positive COVID-19 test, and back and shoulder issues have also hampered him.
Kingery went 0-for-3 on Saturday, dropping his average to .093 (4-for-43).
“It does feel like it’s just going to take a little bit of time,” Kingery said. “But these things come back quick.”
The Mets will hand the ball to right-hander Rick Porcello to try and avoid the sweep.
Porcello is 1-2 with a 5.68 ERA, but he has allowed only three runs in his last 13 innings.
Over Porcello’s career, he holds a 3-2 mark and a 4.37 ERA in six starts against the Phillies.
“It’s been frustrating, as we’ve lost a lot of close games,” Porcello said. “We just need something to get over the hump.”
Porcello is most effective when he’s keeping the ball down, getting ahead in the count and getting ground-ball outs. Through the first four starts, he has been inconsistent, with the ball up in the zone too much.
“When you’re throwing like that, three pitches or less inducing contact, typically the defense, they’re going to be on their toes,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “They know the ball is going to be put in play quickly.”
The struggling Mets offense is clearly missing Jeff McNeil, who was injured Thursday after crashing into the fence and making an outstanding catch against the Washington Nationals.
McNeil has a bone contusion in his knee and is still considered day-to-day. It’s not immediately known if he’ll play in the series finale against the Phillies. McNeil is hitting .293 with seven RBIs in 17 games.
“He’s a fearless competitor,” said teammate Dominic Smith, who hit a two-run home run on Saturday. “Obviously, you don’t want to see a guy go down, but I love it. I just love how hard he plays.”
–Field Level Media