May 30, 2012; New York, NY, USA; Philadelphia Phillies base runner Juan Pierre (10) scores from third base in front of New York Mets catcher Rob Johnson (16) on a sacrifice fly by Phillies batter Shane Victorino (not pictured) during the eighth inning of a game at Citi Field. Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE
The New York Mets kick off the final stretch of the first half Tuesday when they open a three-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies, part of a six-game homestand wrapping up with the All-Star break.
While the Mets have continued to hang around in the playoff picture -- just a half-game back in the Wild Card race -- the Phillies are losers of five straight, seven of nine and have already started trading off parts of their team. Last week Philadelphia shipped off Jim Thome to the Baltimore Orioles and have had discussions about parting ways with free-agent-to-be Cole Hamels.
New York bounced back from a five game losing streak, including two terrible games against the Chicago Cubs by reeling off four wins before falling short Sunday night 8-3 vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers. They will hand the ball Tuesday night to the man that stopped that last losing streak, lefty Jonathan Niese (6-3, 3.55), and the only pitcher to get two starts during this final trip home before the break.
This will already be the fourth time Niese has faced off against the division rivals, going 1-0 in the first three starts.
The Phillies will turn to impressive 24-year-old righty Vance Worley (4-4, 2.92), the last pitcher to pick up a win for Philadelphia. That outing came last Tuesday when Worley tossed six innings for the victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. He pitched against Niese and the Mets back in April when he surrendered four runs over six innings, however the Phillies offense didn't help matters, failing to drive in a run.
Problems at the plate seem to be plaguing the Phillies as they await the return of first baseman Ryan Howard. While being swept by the Miami Marlins over the weekend, Philadelphia's offense was unable to muster more than two runs in any of the three games.
The Mets, meanwhile, have averaged over seven runs per game over their last five and are currently third in the national league. The last time these two teams met, the New York offense averaged over five runs a game, a performance that should be more than adequate this time around to take the series.
You can watch all the action locally on SNY or listen on WFAN 660 with first pitch scheduled for 7:10 p.m.