It’s been more than two months since the Philadelphia Phillies
last faced the New York Mets, and the three-time reigning NL East
champions would rather not relive the memory.
The Mets blanked their rivals throughout an entire three-game
sweep from May 25-27, but the surging Phillies appear considerably
more confident as they get set to host New York on Friday
Philadelphia’s mysterious midseason slump is one reason the club
remains two games behind first-place Atlanta.
The Mets became the first team since 1983 to shut out the
Phillies for an entire three-game series, part of a stretch when
Philadelphia averaged 1.3 runs in 11 games from May 22-June 2.
Despite lacking injured regulars Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and
Shane Victorino, the Phillies (60-48) are playing much better.
They’ve won four straight – three since Howard (sprained ankle)
went on the disabled list – and 12 of 14 while averaging 5.4
Raul Ibanez’s RBI double was among the key hits during a
game-tying rally in the ninth inning at Florida on Thursday night,
and Carlos Ruiz’s home run in the 10th provided the winning margin
in the 5-4 victory.
“The other day I was talking to my ma, and she asked me about
Howard,” Ruiz said. “I told her we have to keep going and pull
everything together. So far, the guys are doing pretty good.”
The catcher also doubled twice, improving to 18 for 41 (.439)
with 13 RBIs in his last nine games. Ibanez has been just as hot,
batting .447 with 13 RBIs during a 13-game hitting streak.
The duo should provide a challenge for emerging Mets rookie
Jonathon Niese (7-5, 3.78 ERA).
After going 6-2 with a 2.58 ERA in June and July, Niese’s August
got off to a rocky start Sunday against Arizona. He didn’t allow a
hit through three innings but ended up surrendering seven runs in 4
1-3 innings of a 14-1 loss.
“They made the adjustments well and I didn’t make the
counter-adjustments,” Niese said.
The Phillies had few answers for Niese on April 30, when the
23-year-old left-hander held Philadelphia to four hits and a run in
seven innings of a 9-1 road win, striking out seven. That’s one of
just two New York victories in its last 11 games at Citizens Bank
Niese hopes for more run support than the Mets have been
providing their pitchers lately. New York has totaled eight runs
while losing three of four, with star third baseman David Wright
going 0 for 15.
The Mets (54-54) also made four errors in Wednesday’s 8-3 loss
to Atlanta, slipping eight games behind the Braves and six back of
“That was bad,” manager Jerry Manuel said. “We didn’t play very
well. We’re a better team than that. We have to get back on
Facing Joe Blanton (4-6, 5.86) may help. Opponents are hitting
.301 against the big right-hander, who has allowed at least three
runs in all but one of his 17 starts.
He has worked at least seven scoreless innings in three of his
five career starts against the Mets, but he struggled in Queens on
May 26, allowing five runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 5-0 loss.
Blanton, however, hasn’t lost at home since May 8, going 3-0
despite a 5.11 ERA in his last six outings in Philadelphia.