The Philadelphia Phillies have quietly climbed back into playoff contention at the expense of the NL’s best team.
To continue its move up the wild card standings, Philadelphia looks for its first four-game sweep of the New York Mets in nearly three years when the division rivals wrap up their series on Thursday.
“We couldn’t do much with him tonight,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said of Lieber. “It was almost a perfect ballgame.”
Philadelphia has outscored the Mets 27-4 in the first three games of the series. All of New York’s runs were scored when Jose Reyes hit three homers in an 11-4 loss on Tuesday.
“We’re going to hit,” said Coste, a 33-year-old rookie catcher. “We may not be the best lineup in the league, but right now we’re pretty good.”
The Phillies still trail the Mets by 12 games in the NL East, but are just 2 1/2 games behind Cincinnati for the wild card. On July 30, when Philadelphia dealt outfielder Bobby Abreu and pitcher Cory Lidle to the New York Yankees, the Phillies trailed the Reds by five games.
“I think right now we’re playing really good,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “We come to the ballpark wanting to play.”
A win Thursday would bring the Phillies (59-60) back to .500 for the first time since June 19, and complete their first four-game sweep of the Mets since Sept. 4-7, 2003 in Philadelphia.
Rookie Scott Mathieson (1-3, 6.48 ERA) will make his second start of the month against New York (71-48). On Aug. 6, the right-hander gave up seven runs— only two earned after his throwing error—and six hits over 3 2-3 innings of an 8-1 loss.
Mathieson also gave up a grand slam to Reyes during a seven-run fourth inning.
“It looked like after (Mathieson made the error), he started getting his pitches over the middle of the plate,” Manuel said. “We’ve talked about it all year how, with young guys like that, experience comes into play.
“That’s to be expected. He’s a young guy. He came from Double-A. He has a good arm. He’s got a big future.”
Mathieson fared worse in a 9-7 loss to Cincinnati on Saturday, giving up six runs and seven hits in 3 1-3 innings. He’s 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in three career home starts.
Fellow rookie John Maine (2-3, 2.64) faced Washington on Saturday and extended his scoreless streak to 26 innings before allowing a home run to Nick Johnson in the fourth inning of a 6-4 Mets victory.
“He threw great, except for a couple of pitches,” catcher Paul Lo Duca said. “He’s improving each time out.”
Maine, who has emerged as the best candidate to become the Mets’ fifth starter, doesn’t think the streak is a big deal.
“I’m not even thinking about it,” Maine said. “It’s nice not to give up a run. But I’ve got a chance to win a job here and help a team get into the postseason. That’s what I think about after I’m done.”
He also will oppose Mathieson and Philadelphia for the second time this month. In the win on Aug. 6, Maine scattered three hits over six innings.