It took nearly a month, but the Phillies finally swept a three-game series in 2013. That it came against the woeful New York Mets shouldn't take anything away from this accomplishment, because wins are wins, and three of them against a lowly division rival still count the same in the win column.
Following a series against the Pittsburgh Pirates that saw the bullpen cough up a pair of victories and the team fall to five games under .500, the Phillies were in desperate need of a few wins to right the ship that is hopefully setting a course for October.
Thankfully, the Mets are still a team, and the powers-that-be saw fit to send the reeling Phillies to Flushing for three games against a franchise that was nearly felled by a pyramid scheme.
Newly appointed ace Kyle Kendrick got the Phillies off to a good start on Friday night, when he pitched his second career shutout en route to his second win of the young season. The big offensive blows came in the sixth inning, where the Phils scored all four of their runs, capped by a three-run homer from Ryan Howard, whose right-center shot made Citi Field look tiny.
They handed the ball to newest starter Jonathan Pettibone on Saturday afternoon, and the 22-year-old pitched well enough to earn his first big league win, when he held the Mets to three runs over five innings of work. It wasn't the cleanest start, as Pettibone allowed seven hits and walked two, but it was good enough to keep it close so the bats could go to work.
And, sure enough, did those bats come to life. The offense hung nine runs on the Metropolitans, including three on starter Shaun Marcum, who lasted all of four innings in his season debut. The heavy lifting occurred in the fifth, when Domonic Brown and John Mayberry hit back-to-back homers in what would be a five-run inning. And unlike the previous series, the bullpen managed to keep from blowing the lead, as Raul Valdes, Chad Durbin, and Jeremy Horst combined for four innings of one-hit, one-run ball.
On Sunday afternoon, it was Cole Hamels' turn to take the hill and see if he could pitch his way to his first win of the season. Despite an uneven start that saw the lefty allow six walks in six innings, Hamels managed to limit the damage to just one run on a pair of hits. He struck out eight.
The offense was held in check for most of the game, with their first run coming on the strength of a solo shot from Freddy Galvis in the fifth inning to even the score, but it wasn't until the seventh inning that the bats were really able to put something together. With two away, pinch-hitter Laynce Nix singled through the left side of the infield, and was followed by Jimmy Rollins, who came through with a single of his own. With the right-handed hitting Kevin Frandsen on deck, the Mets opted to lift lefty Jonathon Niese from the game in favor of righty Scott Atchison. Charlie Manuel counted by pinch-hitting Ryan Howard, who proceeded to blast a double to dead-center that would plate both Nix and Rollins. Chase Utley followed with an RBI single of his own, and the Phillies would end the inning with a 4-1 advantage.
John Mayberry would add to the lead with an RBI single of his own in the eighth inning, but it was more than enough, as the late-inning combination of Antonio Bastardo, Mike Adams, and Jonathan Papelbon would shut the door by allowing one hit and no runs in the final three innings.
So, what have we learned from this sweep? First, it's that the Mets are really, really bad. I mean, just look at that roster. David Wright would have more protection in a 1957 Beetle. Second, it's that timely hitting from the middle of the order is what is going to decide the fate of this Phillies team. If Utley, Howard, Michael Young, the newly-returned Carlos Ruiz (who went 1-4 with a double in his return to action), and to some extent Domonic Brown and Jimmy Rollins can't provide the kind of offense that they are capable of, then it doesn't matter who their opponent is. Third, it's that the bullpen is going to have to be much, much better. Originally thought to be a strength coming into the season, the 'pen has had it's fair share of miscues, and that's exactly what the Phillies need to avoid if they want to outperform the 2012 club.
All told, it was a good weekend for the Phillies, even if it did come at the expense of the lowly Mets. Kyle Kendrick looked good, Ryan Howard looked good, the bullpen looked good, and Cole Hamels put himself in the win column for the first time in 2013.
After an off-day on Monday, the 12-14 Phillies head to Cleveland next, where they'll take on former Phillies manager Terry Francona, and his 8-13 Indians for a two-game set. It'll be RHP Roy Halladay (2-2, 5.08) versus RHP Zach McAllister (1-3, 3.52) on Tuesday, followed by LHP Cliff Lee (2-1) taking on LHP Scott Kazmir (0-1, 8.64) on Wednesday.