5 things to watch as Mets face Phillies in four-game home-and-home series

The challenges keep coming for the Mets, who go from barely escaping a three-game sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Braves to a home-and-home four-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies, who just happen to have the best record in the majors at 28-13.

Did anyone have the Phillies as possibly the best team in baseball in 2024?

They established themselves as championship contenders the last two seasons, but they’re playing at a higher level so far this year, combining excellent starting pitching with a deep bullpen and a dynamic offense.

They have had a relatively easy schedule, so it may be premature to think they’re better than the Dodgers or Braves. But wherever they rank in that regard, they loom as another significant measuring stick for the Mets, who aren’t hitting much but continue to show fight late in games and win just enough to keep things interesting.

With two games at Citi Field and then two in Philly, here are five things to watch for in the series:

Carryover from Nimmo's walk-off?

It felt like a huge moment for the Mets, Brandon Nimmo delivering that walk-off home run on Sunday night to salvage the third game of the series and avoid the sweep. But can it be a spark for a team that continues to sputter offensively?

These four games will put that theory to the test, as the Phillies’ starting pitching has been outstanding while the Mets are searching for something resembling day-to-day consistency with the bats.

Before Nimmo saved the day, they were oh so close to scoring two runs or fewer in a loss for the 10th time in their last 19 games. But the Mets have also shown a lot of fight this season, especially in the late innings, so now we’ll see if Nimmo saving the day can be the start of something or just a heroic moment.

Alonso and Lindor are showing signs

More and more it appears Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso will have to carry the load if the Mets’ offense is to be counted on in the foreseeable future.

After all, with Francisco Alvarez out after surgery for his torn thumb ligament, the bottom part of the lineup is among the least productive six-through-nine groups in the majors, as the Mets are getting nothing out of the catching spot, and very little from Jeff McNeil, Brett Baty, and Harrison Bader.

The good news for the Mets is that Alonso seems to be emerging from his deep funk, with a handful of key hits in the last several days, including a double and single on Sunday night that each drove in runs.

Lindor had two hits as well, so perhaps they can get hot together and put some thump in the offense.

May 11, 2024; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets pitcher Christian Scott (45) pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning at Citi Field.

Another tough test for Christian Scott

The rookie seemed unfazed facing the mighty Braves, delivering a second straight impressive start since his call-up, but this could be an even tougher test, facing a potent Phillies lineup in the bandbox known as Citizens Bank Ballpark.

Can Scott keep the likes of Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, and Alec Bohm from reaching those cozy home run dimensions?

So far the soon-to-be 25-year-old right-hander has shown poise, as Mets’ people had predicted, as well as elite stuff, a combination that could produce consistent success in the big leagues.

The Mets desperately need someone like him who can pitch with dominance, especially with Kodai Senga apparently needing more time to feel good about his mechanics before beginning to make rehab starts, meaning it could be July before he’s pitching again at the big leagues.

Is the Phillies' pitching really this good?

They have the second-best starting-pitching ERA in the majors at 2.70, so it’s more than just Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola who are providing dominant starts for the Phillies.

Lefty Ranger Suarez showed potential the last couple of years, especially in the postseason, but he has taken his game to a higher level. In eight starts he has pitched to a 1.50 ERA, second only to the Chicago CubsShota Imanaga as the best in the majors.

More surprisingly, Spencer Turnbull, who signed to a one-year, $2 million contract as a free agent, has been equally brilliant, pitching to a 1.53 ERA in eight appearances, six of them starts. And the Phillies just got Taijuan Walker back from injury, so they have depth in addition to dominance.

In this series the Mets will miss Wheeler, who pitched on Sunday, and that looks like a break, though they’ve managed to fare pretty well against him the last couple of years.

When did Bohm turn into Mike Schmidt?

Bohm has made steady improvement as a third baseman over the last few years, especially defensively, but this year at age 27 he has blossomed into a monster with the bat.

He’s leading the National League with 15 doubles and hitting a heady .338, seventh-highest in the majors, while his .934 OPS dwarfs his previous best of .765.

Bohm’s emergence has deepened the already-dangerous Phillies’ lineup. He’s hitting second, giving Harper plenty of RBI opportunities, and the result is the Phillies have scored the second-most runs in the majors behind only the Dodgers.