Philadelphia (54-46) at New York (53-47)

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  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Wed Jul 23, 2008
  • TV: ESPN, SNY
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Philadelphia Phillies are involved in the tightest three-team division race in baseball, but they haven’t been playing well against either of their competitors, particularly the New York Mets.

They’re hoping one inning on Tuesday helped change that.

After using a late rally to win, the Phillies will try to maintain their slim first-place lead in the NL East on Wednesday when they continue their series with the Mets at Shea Stadium.

Philadelphia (54-46) lost its last two games in Florida over the weekend, creating a tie atop the division between the Phillies and Mets with the Marlins just one game back.

It looked like New York (53-47) would take over first place on Tuesday, when it had a 5-2 lead heading into the ninth inning. But with Mets closer Billy Wagner unavailable due to muscle spasms around his left elbow joint, manager Jerry Manuel had to rely on the rest of his bullpen to close out the Phillies.

It didn’t work.

Philadelphia scored six runs off three New York relievers in the ninth and won 8-6, taking sole possession of first in the NL East.

“It started last year,” Jimmy Rollins said, referring to the Phillies’ comeback from seven games behind the Mets with 17 to play to win the division. “You never give up.”

The Phillies have scored the second-most runs in the NL, but hadn’t been faring so well against the Mets until recently. They were held to 30 runs in their first nine games against New York, but have scored 17 in the last two.

Philadelphia could still use more production from some of its big bats against the Mets. Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell have five total RBIs in 19 combined games versus New York, while Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are hitting a combined .242 (22-for-91).

Brett Myers (3-9, 5.84 ERA) will try to help the Phillies extend their lead over the Mets on Wednesday. Myers had two wins by April 17, but he’s won just once since then. He’s spent the last three weeks in the minor leagues, and despite going 1-3, he struck out 28 in 27 innings and finished with a 3.00 ERA.

He’s relishing the opportunity to come back against the Mets.

“I can’t think of a better team for me to come back against,” Myers told the Phillies’ official Web site. “I don’t like them. We’re not supposed to like them. Nothing against the guys on the team—they’re our rivals.”

Myers is 5-1 with a 4.83 ERA in nine career starts at Shea.

Tuesday’s loss was just the third in the last 14 games for the Mets, who had won three of four in Philadelphia earlier this month.

New York could use Wagner, the Phillies’ former closer, back as soon as possible though. Including Tuesday’s meltdown, the Mets’ bullpen has allowed 13 runs in 14 1-3 innings over the last five games.

“After seeing that, you can’t help feeling that you want to be out there,” said Wagner, who has 24 saves in 30 chances. “A lot of different things might have happened if I was out there.”

John Maine (8-7, 4.22) will start Wednesday, and lately that hasn’t been a good proposition for the Mets. He’s 0-2 with a 6.63 ERA in his last four starts, and hasn’t lasted into the sixth in three of those games.

Maine went 4 2-3 and allowed five runs—and issues five walks—on Friday in a 5-2 loss to the Reds.

He’s fared well against Philadelphia, however. Maine is 4-0 with a 2.36 ERA versus the Phillies in eight career starts.

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Starting Pitchers

B. Myers Cle vs. J. Maine Mia
10-13 Record 10-8
4.55 ERA 4.18
163 K 122
65 BB 67
1.38 WHIP 1.35

Scoreboard

Wednesday, Jul 23