The Philadelphia Phillies may be desperate in their late push for the NL East title, but they’re also confident.
The Phillies try to move a little closer to the New York Mets and beat the division leaders for a seventh straight time Saturday when the teams continue their three-game series at Shea Stadium.
Philadelphia (78-69) moved within 5 1/2 games of New York (83-63) with a 3-2, 10-inning victory Friday night. Greg Dobbs hit a pinch-hit sacrifice fly to drive home the go-ahead run for the Phillies, who had been as close as two games after sweeping the Mets in a four-game series Aug. 27-30 before struggling in the interim prior to this set of make-or-break games.
“In tough situations with a team over and over again, you get yourself real familiar with everything they’re trying to do and vice versa,” said shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who boldly proclaimed in the offseason that the Phillies were the team to beat in the NL East.
The Phillies - also 1 1/2 games behind the San Diego Padres for the wild card - are 10-6 against the Mets, holding them to three or fewer runs in five of the six victories in the current streak. The last three wins have each come by one run, leaving New York frustrated as it tries to nail down a second straight division title.
“They’ve played well late in games and we haven’t,” said Mets third baseman David Wright, whose first-inning home run provided an early lead. “We had our opportunities tonight offensively and didn’t cash in.”
Kyle Lohse (8-12, 4.47 ERA) will try to further Philadelphia’s momentum and remain unbeaten since joining the Phillies via trade from the Cincinnati Reds. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 4.12 ERA in eight starts and allowed three runs in six innings of a 6-5, 10-inning victory Monday against Colorado.
But Lohse has struggled against the Mets regardless of where he pitched this season, giving up eight runs and 11 hits in 8 1-3 innings and losing one of two starts. The Phillies rallied for an 11-10 victory to complete that four-game sweep after he was reached for three runs and five hits in 3 2-3 innings.
He is 0-1 with a 5.87 ERA in three lifetime outings versus New York.
After failing to take advantage of a quality start by veteran Tom Glavine in the series opener, the Mets turn to another big-game pitcher in Pedro Martinez (2-0, 1.80). The right-hander has been effective in winning both his starts since recovering from offseason surgery on his throwing shoulder.
After throwing 76 pitches in his return, Martinez logged 92 in five scoreless innings Sunday against Houston, scattering six hits and one walk in New York’s 4-1 victory.
“I’m going to just savor every little bit that I can get from the game from now on,” Martinez said. “I’m just coming back from a surgery that if I have to do it again—see you guys. No more.
“So I’m going to enjoy every little moment that I have, every curtain call, sign as many autographs as I can because it’s not going to last too long.”
Mets manager Willie Randolph had no problems admitting a secure feeling with Martinez being this efficient.
“Anytime Pedro is out there is positive for me,” he said. “When you have surgery like that and coming back from it and get through a game where you make your pitches and you just continue to just look stronger and stronger, it’s all good.”
Martinez is 7-5 with a 3.36 ERA in 17 starts and 21 overall appearances against Philadelphia, but has not defeated the Phillies since June 30, 2005. He is 2-2 with a 5.46 ERA in five starts against them since joining the Mets.
Pat Burrell, who has 41 homers against the Mets, is 0-for-17 with seven strikeouts in his career against Martinez.
Wright is one homer shy of reaching 30 homers and 30 stolen bases for the first time in his career. He is also two runs shy of his first 100-run season and four RBIs shy of reaching the century mark for the third straight year.
He is 18-for-61 (.295) with four homers against the Phillies this season, hitting safely in 14 of the 16 games.