The Mets look to create some breathing room in the tight race Tuesday night when they visit the surging Phillies in the opener of a key two-game set.
The Mets (73-59), who lead the division by one-half game over the Phillies (72-59), hold a 9-4 advantage in the season series, including a 5-2 mark at Philadelphia.
“But it’s always good to be in first place,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel told the team’s official Web site, “whether you’re up by half-game or a millimeter.”
Despite that slight lead in the standings, New York is still trying to move past last season’s epic collapse. The club squandered a seven-game lead with 17 games left, handing over the East title to Philadelphia and missing the playoffs on the final day of the regular season.
David Wright is certainly playing his part as the Mets try to put that disappointment behind them, posting a .327 batting average (17-for-52) with one homer and 12 RBIs in 13 games against the Phillies. The third baseman has been outstanding in the last nine matchups at Citizens Bank Park, going 17-for-37 (.459) with two homers and 10 RBIs. He’s also 13-for-30 (.433) with two homers off Jamie Moyer, Tuesday’s scheduled starter.
Wright went 1-for-2 with two walks and two runs to help the Mets maintain their division lead Monday by beating Houston 9-1 to salvage a split of a four-game series. The Phillies enter this series having won seven of eight, completing a four-game sweep of Los Angeles with a 5-0 victory Monday.
New York gives the ball to Pedro Martinez (4-3, 4.97 ERA), who hopes for a better start after serving up first-pitch home runs in two of his last four outings. The right-hander, though, is 1-1 with a 2.73 ERA in that span.
He gave up another leadoff homer Thursday before settling down and allowing three runs and six hits over the next six innings without a decision in a 5-4 win over Atlanta.
The homer Martinez served up to Burrell is the only hit he’s allowed to the left fielder in 23 career at-bats, striking him out nine times. Utley, meanwhile, is 7-for-21 with three homers against Martinez.
Utley has been outstanding in the last 11 home games against the Mets, hitting .348 (16-for-46) with six homers and 10 RBIs. The All-Star second baseman enters this series on a tear, going 10-for-22 (.455) with one homer and three RBIs in the last six games.
Moyer (11-7, 3.54) is hoping for better offensive support after getting four runs or less in 13 of his last 14 outings, going 5-4 with a 2.66 ERA in that span.
The 45-year-old left-hander received one run Thursday, and didn’t get a decision while allowing two runs - one earned - and five hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 4-3 loss to Washington.
“I just try to take care of things I can control,” Moyer said.
That lack of support has left Moyer with only a 1-1 record despite a 2.81 ERA in four starts this season against the Mets. The Phillies have provided the veteran with only seven total runs of support in those games.