Phillies-Mets postponed by rain, DH on Saturday

Cliff Lee and Hunter Pence sat on either side of the chess

board, staring at bishops and rooks as a steady rain fell

outside.

With the wet weather granting them a rare breather on a gloomy

evening at Citi Field, the slumping Phillies have but a few days

left to get all their pieces in place for baseball’s ultimate end

game.

Philadelphia’s series opener Friday night against the New York

Mets was postponed before it started and will be made up as part of

a day-night doubleheader Saturday – though rain is in the forecast

again. The first game is slated to begin at 1:10 p.m., with the

nightcap set for 7:10 p.m.

And although the NL East champions are eager to end their

season-worst, six-game losing streak, manager Charlie Manuel thinks

his club can benefit from the rest. Due to makeup games and

doubleheaders, the banged-up Phillies are in the midst of playing

33 games in 31 days to finish the regular season.

”We could definitely use a day,” Manuel said before the game

was called. ”We’re definitely kind of out of whack. We’re out of

tune, our timing and stuff. We need to get back in the groove, we

need to get back and play like we can. I think a day off would help

that.”

Looking to get his slumbering offense clicking again in time for

the playoffs, Manuel had most of his regulars in the posted lineup

Friday even though Philadelphia had already clinched home-field

advantage throughout the postseason.

Second baseman Chase Utley was set to rest but slugger Ryan

Howard, who had an anti-inflammatory injection in his sore left

ankle Monday, was in his customary cleanup spot. Pence, nursing a

strained left knee, is expected back in right field Saturday.

Six regular-season games remain before the Phillies open the

playoffs Oct. 1.

”We want to get winning. We want to get rolling,” said center

fielder Shane Victorino, who went 0 for 15 during Washington’s

four-game sweep in Philadelphia this week. ”You’ve got to figure

it out sooner than later.

”Clinching early was great, but again sometimes that team

that’s rolling at the end of the year that gets in hot is the one

that usually has the most success,” he added. ”But I think the

experience that we have here – and that’s a lot – in postseason

play, I think that helps a lot and will come into play.”

The Phillies are winless since wrapping up their fifth

consecutive division title last Saturday. They are averaging 2.47

runs while going 5-10 in their last 15 games, scoring three or

fewer 13 times during that stretch.

Not exactly how they want to be swinging the bats heading into

the NL playoffs, where the pitching-rich Phillies will be heavy

favorites thanks to a fearsome rotation that features Lee, Roy

Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt.

”We want to be ready. We want to go in on a real positive

note,” Manuel said. ”We celebrated, and we’ve had a great year.

But we’re in a position where we could have a really special year.

… A lot of us are trying too hard. Some of us are maybe not

focused as much as we could be. All we’ve got to do is get back and

play the way we want to. We play because we want to, not because we

have to. And we always play in a relaxed atmosphere and we get

after it. We go back and we start doing that these last six

ballgames, we’ll go into the playoffs fired up and ready to

play.”

Hamels had been slated to pitch Friday night against New York

knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Both starters were pushed back to the

first game Saturday, when Hamels will try to match a career high

with his 15th win.

The rainout means that after Saturday, Hamels may not get

another full outing in before the playoffs begin. Just a tuneup,

perhaps.

Mets rookie Dillon Gee starts the nightcap against Joe Blanton,

with the Phillies planning to use their bullpen extensively.

During the final week of the regular season, Major League

Baseball makes the call on rainouts in order to preserve the

integrity of pennant races. Across town, the Boston Red Sox and New

York Yankees also had their game postponed in a series with much

more at stake than the one at Citi Field.

”It’s really an extra night’s sleep, if anything,” said

Dickey, who is 4-5 during a run of 11 consecutive quality starts.

”It can be to your benefit, because you have one extra day to kind

of recover.”

NOTES: The start time of Sunday’s game was moved back an hour to

2:10 p.m. … Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said he figured

out what left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo was doing during his

delivery that was tipping his pitches to opponents. He informed

Bastardo, who said it has something to do with the way he was

holding the ball on his slider. Both said it’s an easy fix. …

Mets RF Lucas Duda is still having headaches after crashing into

the outfield fence Wednesday in St. Louis. He had an MRI exam and

was not in the lineup, but manager Terry Collins said Duda’s

production at the plate has earned him a projected starting spot in

the outfield going into next season. … New York CF Angel Pagan

also is having headaches after hitting himself in the back of the

head on a backswing Thursday. Pagan was pulled from the posted

lineup and replaced by Jason Pridie.