The last time the Phillies saw the New York Mets, it was freezing cold, the Phils were doing everything they could to lose, the Mets were doing everything they could to win, rookie Phillies manager Gabe Kapler was being fitted for a dunce cap and rookie Mets skipper Mickey Callaway's name was already being etched on the manager of the year trophy.
Five weeks later, spring has sprung, the Mets are racking up losses, the Phillies are piling up wins, Kapler is parading around in a stylish fedora and the dunce cap is hanging in Callaway's locker after his team one-upped the Phillies' gaffe of not having a reliever ready to pitch in the third game of the season by batting out of order Wednesday in Cincinnati.
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Five weeks ago, the Phils lost two games to the Mets and came home at 1-4. Since then, they are 21-11, giving Kapler good reason to sermonize about his team's resilience.
"I think it comes from the commitment to fighting for one another, the commitment to sticking together and to behaving like a team and not like a bunch of individuals," Brother Gabe said after his lads completed a four-game sweep of the Giants on Thursday (see story). "I believe that that is the character of our team, it's the core of our team. It's us looking out for each other, standing shoulder to shoulder together. Everybody in that room is part of our family, and that is not just people in uniform. It's everybody in that room. We're all pulling the rope in the same direction."
The Mets raced out to a 11-1 record to start the season. Since then, they are 7-16. They come to Philadelphia for a three-game series starting Friday night having lost eight of their last nine games. They scored just three runs in losing their last two games to the Cincinnati Reds, owners of the National League's worst record. Wednesday's 2-1 loss was lowlighted by the Mets' batting out of order in the first inning.
As the Mets come to town, it's worth noting that the Phillies have played well against teams from outside the NL East and poorly against teams from the NL East. The Phils are 15-2 against teams from outside the division and 7-13 against teams in the division, including 0-2 against the Mets.
The Phils know they need to improve on that. They come into the Mets series on a roll. They outscored San Francisco 32-8 in their four-game sweep.
The series pitching matchups feature some big names. Jake Arrieta (3-1, 3.15) starts the opener against lefty Steven Matz (1-3, 4.23) on Friday night. Zach Eflin (1-0, 0.71) opposes Noah Syndergaard (2-1, 3.09) on Saturday night. Aaron Nola (5-1, 2.05) and Jacob deGrom (3-0, 1.87) are the pitchers in the final game of the series on Sunday.