Mets and Braves aren't the Phillies' only 2 early-season tests


It’s not just that the Phillies open the season with 13 straight games against the Braves and Mets. They play 27 games in April and 24 of them will be difficult.

The first two weeks include three-game home series against the Braves and Mets, followed by three in Atlanta and four in New York.

Then the Phillies have a six-game homestand against the Cardinals and Giants, followed by a trip to Coors Field and then to St. Louis. The final game of the month is a series opener at home against the Mets.

The Cardinals figure to be the class of a weak NL Central. They were the only team in that division that added much this offseason, trading for Rockies superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado to pair in the middle of the lineup with Paul Goldschmidt.

The Phillies will be done with the Cardinals by April 29 and will have played 10 of their 19 games vs. the Mets by May 2. In fact, only three of the Phillies’ final 47 games are against the Mets. 

On one hand, it could be beneficial to get these games out of the way early. Facing a good team before it has hit its stride is a similar concept to scoring a few early runs off of an ace. Get ‘em early before they’ve settled in.

That’s easier said than done against Jacob deGrom, whom the Phillies will face in at least each of those first two series and probably three times in their first 30 games. The Phils have avoided deGrom frequently the last three years just based on how rotations have lined up. He’s averaged just 11 innings per season against the Phillies since 2018, facing them in only six of 76 starts.

The Phillies will, however, avoid three other high-quality Mets pitchers early in the season. Noah Syndergaard is targeting a return in June after undergoing Tommy John surgery 11 months ago. Carlos Carrasco will miss early April with a hamstring injury. Valuable swingman Seth Lugo is expected to miss most of April as well. He had elbow surgery five weeks ago and was set to be shut down for six weeks, after which he’ll need time to build back up.

“You have to want it because you have to play them anyway,” Bryce Harper said earlier this month. “I think when you do face those guys it’s going to be very tough, but also you’re going to have to go out and play in Los Angeles for the first time in over a year. I think we’re playing the AL East again this year, so that’s a tough division as well.”

The other challenging series for the Phillies in April is that three-gamer at Coors Field the weekend of April 23-25. No matter how bad the Rockies are, that is always a tough trip. The Phillies have lost seven of their last eight games and nine of their last 11 at Coors Field.

Suffice it to say, as good as the Phillies feel about themselves right now, April will be a big wake-up call if they don’t execute.

“It’s a challenge and it kind of gives us a chance to see where we are at, but even after those four series, we have a long, long way to go,” manager Joe Girardi said. “The big thing is that we’re ready to go when we leave spring training and guys feel good about where they are at. The hitters have to feel good about their swings and the pitchers have to feel good about where they are at and we go compete.”

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