(Sports Network) - The Phillies still have yet to win since clinching their fifth straight National League East title nearly a week ago. While motivation may be a factor given that the club has already locked up home-field advantage in the postseason, manager Charlie Manuel says it is time for his club to prepare for October.
Philadelphia will look to do just that tonight in the opener of a three-game series with the New York Mets at Citi Field.
The Phillies have lost a season-high six straight games since clinching the division last Saturday. They have been held to three runs or less in 13 of their past 15 games, but have also been resting some regulars over the past few games. That is all slated to change this weekend.
"We do have to pick it up," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "It's time for us to get ready for the playoffs."
Slugger Ryan Howard hasn't played since last Saturday due to left heel bursitis and sore ankle, but is expected to start tonight, rest tomorrow and then play Sunday. Outfielder Hunter Pence could return on Saturday after missing the last three games to rest his left knee.
Philadelphia could have used the duo on Thursday, when it dropped a 6-1 decision to Washington that concluded a four-game sweep for the visitors.
Roy Oswalt allowed six runs on seven hits over 7 2/3 innings, while Carlos Ruiz had three hits and an RBI in Philly's home finale in the regular season.
Cole Hamels gets another chance at matching his career high single-season win total tonight, but has just one win in his last six outings and has struggled in his career versus the Mets.
Hamels lost his second straight start on Sunday versus the Cardinals, yielding four runs on seven hits over seven innings. He also yielded a pair of homers, giving him seven allowed over his last four games, but that hasn't concerned Manuel yet.
"Other than a couple of bad pitches, he was fine," the manager said.
Hamels won 15 games in 2007 and is 14-9 with a 2.80 earned run average this year, but those numbers would be better if not for the Mets. The 27-year-old southpaw has a 1-2 mark and 9.64 ERA in three starts versus New York in 2011, giving up seven runs over 4 1/3 frames the last time he faced the club on July 16 in New York.
Lifetime versus the Mets, Hamels is only 3-10 with a 4.69 ERA in 16 games.
New York returns home after playing spoiler on Thursday against the postseason-hopeful Cardinals, rallying for six runs in the ninth inning to notch an 8-6 victory.
Willie Harris capped the big inning with a two-run single and Bobby Parnell pitched a perfect ninth inning to help the Mets avoid a three-game sweep in a contest that was delayed two hours and 19 minutes at the start because of rain.
New York won despite playing without outfielders Jason Bay (illness) and Lucas Duda (dizziness).
R.A. Dickey seeks a 12th straight quality start for the Mets this evening, but is just 4-5 in that span. He has gone at least seven innings in five of his past six outings, but dropped a second straight game on Saturday in Atlanta following a three-game win streak.
The right-handed knuckler was outdueled by Tim Hudson, taking a loss despite allowing one run and three hits over 7 2/3 innings. Dickey also walked six and fell to 8-13 with a 3.35 ERA this year.
"You know you're going to be in for a battle when [Hudson] pitches usually," Dickey said. "You can either be afraid of the challenge or try to embrace it. I've always tried to embrace it."
The 36-year-old is 2-3 with a 2.90 ERA lifetime versus the Phillies.
Philadelphia is 10-5 versus New York this season.