The Philadelphia Phillies didn't do themselves any favors in the NL wild-card race by dropping three of four games in Houston over the weekend. With time winding down, they'll need to take advantage of the next struggling team on their schedule.
Cliff Lee looks to continue his hot stretch while opposing Cy Young Award contender R.A. Dickey in the opener of a three-game series with the host New York Mets on Monday night.
Philadelphia fell four games behind St. Louis for the league's second wild-card spot after a 7-6 loss to the major league-worst Astros on Sunday. With 15 games remaining, the Phillies (73-74) have ground to make up - and four teams ahead of them - with little time to go.
"It shouldn't be deflating,'' said Jimmy Rollins, who had three hits. "We lose games. If we lose, we just don't have any more room."
Manager Charlie Manuel has plenty of confidence his team can make up the games necessary to sneak into the postseason.
"We have been in tougher situations than this," Manuel said. "We have to keep going and keep trying. We have to play like hell, but we can do it. We aren't going to give up. We are going to play it out. We have done it before.''
Manuel-led Philadelphia overcame a seven-game deficit with 17 games remaining to win the 2007 NL East title by one game over the Mets, but all New York can do this season is play spoiler.
It hasn't been very effective in that role lately. The Mets (66-80) have dropped eight of their last nine after mustering only two singles while falling 3-0 in Milwaukee on Sunday.
Lee (5-7, 3.36 ERA) will look to take advantage of a New York lineup that has been shut out three times during its slump.
The left-hander has been fantastic over his last four starts, going 3-0 with a 0.99 ERA after allowing an unearned run and four hits in Wednesday's 3-1 win over Miami. He's pitched at least into the seventh in his last 11 outings and hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in his last five.
Lee will be facing the Mets for the fifth time this season after going 1-1 with a 3.67 ERA in the first four. He gave up two runs and struck out nine in eight innings of a 9-2 victory July 4 at Citi Field in the most recent outing.
He'll oppose Dickey, who may be in line to add some hardware after the season despite his team's struggles.
Nearly one-third (20) of New York's victories have come when Dickey (18-5, 2.68) starts, and the knuckleballer surely will garner plenty of Cy Young votes at season's end.
Dickey gave up three runs in seven innings in Tuesday's 5-3 loss to Washington, matching the amount of runs he allowed in winning his previous three starts.
"I felt really good with R.A. on the mound. You're thinking he's going to get us to the ninth inning and we're going to give ourselves a chance here,'' manager Terry Collins said. "It didn't happen.''
The right-hander allowed one run over seven innings in beating Lee and the Phillies on April 13, but he allowed five runs and 11 hits in seven before the Mets let him off the hook with a 6-5 win July 5.
Dickey is 2-1 with a 2.50 ERA in five career home starts against the Phillies, including a one-hit, 1-0 victory Aug. 13, 2010.
The Mets have won 10 of 15 meetings this season.