The Philadelphia Phillies are finally starting to take advantage of the portion of the schedule that was supposed to move them closer to the playoffs.
The Phillies hope to build on a dramatic comeback win and sweep the sputtering New York Mets in Thursday night's final meeting of the season.
After dropping three of four to hapless Houston over the weekend, Philadelphia (75-74) resumed its playoff push by taking the first two at Citi Field. The Phillies looked like they were going to lose Wednesday, trailing 2-1 with nobody on and two outs in the ninth, but Chase Utley walked and Ryan Howard followed with a homer to lift Philadelphia to a 3-2 win, guaranteeing the Mets (66-82) a fourth consecutive losing season.
The Phillies, whose only losses in their last 13 games came to the Astros, remained four back of St. Louis for the NL's second wild card with 13 to play.
"To be here is a testament to the character of this team - that we don't give up,'' Howard said.
Philadelphia hopes Howard's homer - his first since Aug. 31 - is a sign of things to come. The slugger is batting .185 with 14 RBIs and 18 strikeouts in 17 September games.
"He was kind of due,'' Charlie Manuel said. "He needed a big hit like that, and he came through. I'm sure that will give him a big boost."
With Howard struggling, Jimmy Rollins has been carrying Philadelphia's offense. He hit a leadoff homer Wednesday - one of the Phillies' three hits - and is batting .400 with five home runs, eight RBIs, 12 runs and five steals in the last eight games.
Rollins, who also homered in Monday's 3-1 victory, is batting .375 with three home runs, nine RBIs and nine runs in eight games at Citi Field this year.
While Rollins has enjoyed hitting at Citi Field, the same can't be said for New York, which has lost four in a row and 10 of 11 overall.
The Mets are 4-24 in Flushing since July 8, and have plated three runs or fewer in a team-record 15 straight home games since a 6-5 win over Atlanta on Aug. 12. The previous major league club to score three runs or less in more consecutive home games was Seattle, which went 16 in a row in 2010.
The Mets hope to break out of their funk Thursday, which is a makeup after Tuesday's game was postponed because of inclement weather, against Tyler Cloyd (1-1, 4.95 ERA).
Cloyd made his major league debut against New York on Aug. 29, permitting three runs and seven hits in six innings of a 3-2 loss.
After recording a 2.77 ERA and going at least six innings in each of his first two starts, Cloyd has a 9.00 ERA while going four or less in each of his last two. Against Houston last Thursday, the right-hander was removed after allowing three runs and five hits in three-plus innings in a game Philadelphia eventually lost 6-4.
The Mets counter with Jeremy Hefner (2-6, 4.99), who is returning to the rotation after throwing a scoreless inning of relief in Milwaukee on Saturday. In his last start, he was knocked around for five runs and eight hits in 2 2-3 innings in an 11-3 loss to Atlanta on Sept. 8.
The righty has been hit-or-miss in his last six starts, recording a 1.80 ERA in three of them, but a 9.45 ERA in the other three.
His lone start of the season against the Phillies came May 29, when he gave up three runs in six innings of a 6-3 victory.