The Philadelphia Phillies’ road mystique took a hit on their most recent trip, which concluded with a three-game sweep. Those struggles, however, pale in comparison to their season-long problems at home.
On Friday night, the slumping Phillies will try to avoid their first seven-game home skid in nearly five years as they open a three-game set with the NL East-rival New York Mets.
Philadelphia (39-37) played like the defending World Series champions during its first 32 road games, going 23-9 while jumping out to a four-game lead over New York (39-39).
The Phillies, though, were far less impressive on a just-completed 3-6 swing. Philadelphia hit .230 during its past nine games, and totaled seven runs while getting swept at Atlanta this week. A 5-2 loss to the Braves on Thursday was the Phils’ 12th in 15 games overall.
The Phillies’ early-season success on the road is helping them stay tied with Florida atop the division. At home, Philadelphia is 13-22 this season after going 48-33 last year.
A loss in the opener of a season-high 10-game homestand also would give the Phillies their first seven-game slide there since Aug. 12-19, 2004 - the inaugural season at Citizens Bank Park - and allow the Mets to pull even in the standings.
New York, 4-3 against Philadelphia this year, is hoping a breakout offensive performance from Thursday will continue.
The Mets recorded 15 hits in a 9-8, 10-inning win at Pittsburgh. New York trailed 5-0 before rallying behind Fernando Tatis(notes), who finished with three hits including a two-run homer, and scored four runs.
“We could have just said, ‘Let’s pack up and head to Philly, it’s a short flight, let’s get this out of the way,’” manager Jerry Manuel said. “They chose to fight and I thought that was what was most impressive.”
He’s lasted seven innings in each outing, and though he only allowed three hits Sunday against the New York Yankees, five walks helped lead to three runs in a 4-2 loss.
Hernandez is 10-8 with a 3.36 ERA in 24 career starts against the Phillies, whom he hasn’t faced since 2006 while with Washington. Howard and shortstop Jimmy Rollins(notes) are hitting a combined .174 (12 for 69) versus the right-hander.
Lopez had Tommy John surgery a month later, and spent last season recovering. The right-hander went 5-4 with a 3.91 ERA in 13 starts with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and is 65-65 with a 4.80 ERA in a seven-year major league career.
“He pitched very well Sunday (in the minors) when I saw him,” assistant general manager Benny Looper told the Phillies’ official Web site. “We thought it was time to give him a chance.”
The 33-year-old Lopez, a two-time 15-game winner, has never faced the Mets.