(Sports Network) - Back on top in the NL East for the first time in more than three months, the Philadelphia Phillies return to the venue where runs have been scarce this evening in the opener of a three-game set against the rival New York Mets.
The Phillies have scored just seven runs in six games at Citi Field this season, but their recent surge may reap better results. Having won three straight and 11 of its last 14 games, Philadelphia is a game ahead of Atlanta for the division lead and has scored 25 runs during its current win streak.
Spirits are high for the Phils entering Friday's series opener, especially with Roy Halladay set to take on a Mets team he has dominated this season. He is 3-0 with a 1.88 earned run average in three starts against tonight's opponent and previously beat New York on August 8 at Citizens Bank Park, as he fired eight shutout innings and struck out seven.
Halladay, who is 5-2 in seven career starts against the Mets, ended a two- start skid his last time out Saturday versus Milwaukee. The right-hander did allow four runs in seven innings of the 5-4 win, but improved to 17-10 with a 2.36 ERA in 29 starts this season. The 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner has won seven of his past nine starts and is 6-5 in 12 road outings in 2010.
The Phils have been getting solid pitching lately and went 5-2 on a recent homestand which was capped by Wednesday's 10-6 triumph over the visiting Florida Marlins in south Philadelphia. Cole Hamels continued his impressive run towards the postseason by holding the Marlins to only four hits in seven scoreless innings of work.
Hamels benefited from a huge night by first baseman Ryan Howard, who ended with three hits, including a three-run homer, and tied a season high with six RBI.
"It just happens to be September, but it's one of those things where you're coming down the stretch and knowing that every game counts, and I'm just trying to do my part," Howard said.
Chase Utley added two hits, two runs scored and drove in two for the Phillies, while Shane Victorino went 3-for-6 with an RBI and three runs scored. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins left the game with a sore hamstring, however, and is listed as day-to-day.
The Phillies will also visit the Marlins for three games in south Florida on the trek.
Meanwhile, the Mets are back in Queens for a 10-game homestand versus the Phillies, Pirates and Braves and just went 4-6 on a recent road trip. They won the final two portions of a three-game series in Washington and recorded a 3-2 victory Wednesday from Nationals Park.
Nick Evans came on as a pinch hitter in the top of the seventh and stroked and RBI double to score Josh Thole, putting the Mets ahead for good. Luis Hernandez and Carlos Beltran also drove in a run for New York, which got two hits and six productive innings out of winning pitcher R.A. Dickey.
Dickey (10-6) held the Nats to a pair of runs and five hits for his 10th win of the season. Hisanori Takahashi earned his fifth save by retiring the side in order in the ninth inning.
"I just tried to slow the game down," Dickey said. "I've found the more I'm able to do that, the better results I've been having. It takes a long time to learn how to do that. It has for me at least."
The Mets, who are 10 1/2 games off the NL Wild Card lead, will send promising rookie Jenrry Mejia to the mound Friday for his second career start. Mejia was the losing pitcher in last Saturday's 5-3 loss at Chicago and permitted four runs on eight hits and two walks in five innings. The Dominican right-hander fell to 0-3 this season with a 3.86 ERA in 31 games (one start).
Mejia has pitched two separate innings of relief against Philadelphia this season and has no record or ERA in those games.
The 2010 season series between the Phillies and Mets is tied at six games apiece, but Philadelphia has won three of the last four matchups between the two ballclubs.