Perez looks to extend his 18 1-3 scoreless innings streak against the Phillies on Thursday afternoon for the New York Mets when the NL East rivals meet with first place in the division on the line in the finale of a three-game set at Shea Stadium.
Perez (6-6, 4.36 ERA) is turning in another up-and-down season, continuing to show why New York is his third major league club despite his prodigious talent. He’s in his seventh season, having already had stints with San Diego and Pittsburgh, and owns just a 51-59 career record.
This will be the left-hander’s fourth start against Philadelphia (54-47) this year, and the Phillies have seen him at his best. Perez has yielded 11 hits - all singles - in 18 1-3 innings in the first three starts, but has gotten enough support to win only one of them.
The top four hitters in the Phillies’ lineup - Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard - are a combined 4-for-29 with nine strikeouts against Perez this season. Howard is 2-for-19 with 11 strikeouts against him in his career.
Perez, who is 3-1 with a 2.89 ERA in seven day starts this season, also enters on a bit of a roll, going 1-1 with a 1.38 ERA over his last four outings.
New York (54-47) can move into sole possession of first place in the East for the first time since April 19 after winning 6-3 on Wednesday to regain a tie for first. Jose Reyes hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth inning as the Mets won for the 12th time in 15 games.
“We’ll be there,” said Mets manager Jerry Manuel of the division race. “They have a good team, we have a good team.”
Closer Billy Wagner also returned to pitch a perfect ninth inning for his 25th save. Wagner sat out Tuesday’s game with a sore left shoulder as the New York bullpen failed to hold a three-run lead in the ninth of an 8-6 loss.
“Of course you feel it, but I was able to stick with it,” said Wagner about his shoulder. “If I can compete, I’ll be out there.”
Red-hot Carlos Delgado went 1-for-2 with two walks Wednesday as he was moved into the cleanup spot. Delgado is hitting .406 (28-for-69) with five homers and 14 RBIs in 19 games in July.
Utley, who had a 10-game hitting streak entering this series, is 0-for-8 in the first two games. Howard is 2-for-9 in this series, and batting just .212 (11-for-52) with 18 strikeouts against the Mets this year.
New York is 8-4 against Philadelphia in 2008.
The Phillies will try to take over first place behind Jamie Moyer (9-6, 3.90), who has turned in a solid string of recent outings. He’s 3-3 with a 2.86 ERA over his last seven starts, including wins in his last two.
The 45-year-old left-hander was stellar in his first start since the All-Star break, allowing two runs in six innings to win 4-2 at Florida on Friday.
“He’s such a master of what he’s doing, he can see what they’re swinging at and move it a couple of inches,” said Phillies closer Brad Lidge about Moyer.
Moyer has pitched at least six innings in each of his nine career starts at Shea Stadium, going 4-3 with a 2.63 ERA. He’s 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA in three outings against the Mets this season.