After splitting the two-game set with the Royals, the New York Mets travel to Flushing for their first home series of 2016. This will also be their first divisional series as the Philadelphia Phillies come into town with a team full of top prospects. The last game at Citi Field was definitely one to forget as the wrong team celebrated the World Series on its grounds. With a bright, new season, he crowds are bound to be electric as they welcome their National League champions.
Friday: Jacob deGrom (2015: 14-8, 2.54 ERA) v. Jerad Eickhoff (3 teams: 12-5, 3.85 ERA)
Pitching matchups for this series are still up in the air because of deGrom who is still awaiting the call that his new baby is on the way. deGrom was swapped out for Noah Syndergaard in the second game with the Kansas City Royals for this very reason. He is still slated to start the home opener, but it is tentative as he stays by his wife’s side. If he is to start, deGrom will look to top a dominate sophomore season where he had a sub-3 ERA and amassed 205 strikeouts in 191 innings of work.
The Phillies, on the other hand, will definitely give the ball to Eickhoff who begins his rookie season in the MLB. He earned eight starts with the Phillies last season posting a 3-3 record and a 2.65 ERA, but most of his time was spent in Triple-A with the Texas Rangers affiliate, the Round Rock Express. Eickhoff changed uniforms as part of the Cole Hamels trade last summer, and immediately earned a spot with the Phillies after only three starts on their Triple-A squad, the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs.
Saturday: Steven Matz (2015 Mets: 4-0, 2.27 ERA) v. Vince Velazquez (2 teams: 5-1, 3.14 ERA)
Again, if all goes as planned with deGrom, Matz will take to the mound on Saturday night. The big lefty made quite the splash last season, wowing fans and the Mets organization with a 4-0 record in six starts. His trust to perform earned him a spot in the postseason rotation as well. Matz enters his official rookie season in 2016, and it a clear favorite to win Rookie of the Year if he can produce to the quality of last year.
Velasquez rounds out the Phillies rotation, and rightfully so as he had a tremendous spring in Clearwater, FL. Velasquez is another Phillies starter that was traded to the team last season in the Ken Giles deal with the Houston Astros. Velasquez appeared in 19 games with the Astros, starting in 7 where he posted a mediocre 4.37 ERA. The 23-year-old will look to prove himself worthy of the starting job in 2016.
Sunday: Bartolo Colon (2015: 14-13, 4.16 ERA) v. Jeremy Hellickson (2015: 9-12, 4.62 ERA)
Turning 43 years old next month, Colon continues to be an ageless wonder as he earns the fifth spot in the Mets rotation. Colon has velocity on his fastball, but his devastating 2-seam and off-speed still fools hitters across the league. Entering his 20th year in the MLB and his third year with the Amazin’s, Colon will aim to keep his ERA below four and continue to produce quality innings on the bump.
Hellickson had a rough season with Arizona last year, but that didn’t spot Phillies head coach Pete Mackanin from declaring him the ace of the rotation. Hellickson justified this decision in the team’s season opener with the Cincinnati Reds where he didn’t earn the win, but threw a solid six innings in which he allowed an unearned runs on three hits while striking out six.
More About This Series
Division matchups are always fun to watch, but for this one in particular, Mets fans are usually the ones happy at the end of the day. Both teams faced off 19 times last season where the Mets tallied 14 of those in their win column. This season, though, will not be as easy with the Phillies daunting a youth-laden lineup that has the potential to wreak havoc. As preseason favorites to win the division, the Mets are sure to be up for the challenge.