Mets take momentum into Philly series

Mets take momentum into Philly series

PITTSBURGH -- Jerry Manuel doesn't pay attention to his division foes' recent struggles, but he is pleased they coincided with club's own.

"I just see the struggles, and say, 'Hey, OK. We still got a shot,'" Manuel said. "We lost a lot of games in that month of June and still somehow remain to have a shot."

Indeed, the Mets went 9-18 in June before winning back-to-back games to start July. Although the Phillies have been in first place since May 30, they went 11-15 in June and endured a 2-11 stretch.

New York looks to gain more ground on the Phillies when the two rivals open up a three-game set in Philadelphia starting Friday. Although the Phillies have the home advantage this weekend, they are just 13-22 at Citizens Bank Park, a home record that ranks third-worst in baseball.

The two division rivals haven't faced each other since June 9-11, when the Phillies took two of three. But the Mets still lead the season series, 4-3.

After a stretch in which the Mets scored three runs or fewer six times in seven games, they got nine Thursday.

One of the recent hot swingers has been Ryan Church, who drove in the only run of the game in Wednesday's 1-0 win against Milwaukee, and got the game-winning RBI Thursday. The victory against the Brewers broke a five-game slide.

In his past four games, the outfielder has hit 10-for-18.

"Things start going well when I start going the other way," Church said. "I'm confident every day. It felt good to get that [Milwaukee win] in, get that 'W' and get off that five-game losing streak."

Nick Evans has also swung a streaking bat for the Mets. Evans has notched a hit in every game in which he's had at least two at-bats. He went 2-for-6 in Thursday's comeback win.

"He's a dangerous guy, a very dangerous guy," Manuel said. "Being one of those young guys who can get hot, obviously with a little power -- whether it's a double, home run -- it would really be big for us. It would really take some pressure off of some of the other guys that play every day."

In their two games since arriving all together Wednesday on the team bus in Milwaukee, New York has had consecutive one-run wins.

"I think we all got the message," closer Francisco Rodriguez said. "We win [Thursday's] game and now we got a big series ahead of us."

Pitching matchup
NYM: RHP Livan Hernandez (5-3, 4.04 ERA)
Hernandez fell victim to the "one bad inning" syndrome that hit Mets starters during their series sweep at the hands of the Yankees, surrendering three first-inning runs last Sunday. Hernandez was in total control after that, allowing just one more hit as he completed seven innings for a third consecutive start. Although Hernandez has pitched well of late, the Mets have lost his past four starts. While this will be Hernandez's first start against the Phillies this season, he has a 10-8 record and a 3.36 ERA against Philadelphia in 24 career starts and he is 2-2 with a 5.45 ERA in five starts at Citizens Bank Park.

PHI: RHP Rodrigo Lopez (2009 debut)
Lopez will make his season debut Friday against the Mets. He takes left-hander Antonio Bastardo's spot in the rotation. Bastardo is on the DL with a strained left shoulder. Lopez was 5-4 with a 3.91 ERA in 13 starts this season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He is 65-65 with a 4.80 ERA in his seven-year Major League career. Bothered by arm problems in recent seasons, he last pitched for the Rockies in 2007. Lopez signed a Minor League deal with the Phillies at the end of Spring Training after they watched him pitch in the World Baseball Classic.

Manuel didn't have an update on John Maine, who is on the disabled list with right shoulder weakness. Maine pitched four innings for Class A St. Lucie on June 22, giving up one run, but did not make his next start June 27 for Class A Brooklyn because he said he was still feeling pain in his shoulder. ... Four of the seven games against the Phillies this year have been decided by one run.

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On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WFAN 660, WADO 1280 (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Mets (Fernando Nieve, 3-1, 2.25) at Phillies (Jamie Moyer, 6-6, 6.05), 4:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Mets (Johan Santana, 9-6, 3.34) at Phillies (Joe Blanton, 4-4, 5.08), 1:35 p.m. ET
• Monday: Off-day

Wayne Staats is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.