Phillies-Mets: What you need to know
Phillies (37-46) at New York Mets (44-38)7:10 p.m. on CSN
The Phillies, for one afternoon, looked like a team capable of making a second-half push. Cliff Lee turned in a vintage performance for his first win of the season, which was secured thanks to late heroics by Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz, who hit back-to-back homers for the second time in a week. The Phillies have gone back-to-back three times this season and Ruiz has been the second half each time.
But in order to make that second-half push, the Phillies must start winning series, especially against NL East foes. The Phils have won just two of their last nine series dating back to the beginning of June.
Seizing the series at Citi Field is easier said than done, as the Phils will battle one of the toughest pitchers in the game Thursday night.
In a battle of All-Star pitchers, Cole Hamels will take on knuckleballer extraordinaire R.A. Dickey.
Dickey is 12-1 with a 2.15 ERA this season. He leads the National League in wins, WHIP and complete games, is second in strikeouts and third in ERA.
Dickey’s numbers are simply mind-boggling. He’s allowed no earned runs in six of his last seven starts. He’s pitched two one-hitters and has five double-digit strikeout games. He’s registered a quality start 21 of his last 24 times out.
The Phils lost to Dickey the only time they faced him this season, scoring just one run in seven innings.
Hamels, meanwhile, has gotten back on track after a stretch of four poor starts. He’s 10-4 on the season with a 3.08 ERA, and has 111 strikeouts in 111 innings.
The subject of recent trade talks, Hamels figures to be the most appealing option on the market leading up to the July 31 deadline. Whether the Phillies will seriously shop him depends on how they perform over the next few weeks.
Hamels is 2-0 this season against the Mets, with 16 strikeouts and 15 baserunners allowed in 15 innings.
A journeyman and afterthought for the first 12 years of his professional career, Dickey reinvented himself as a knuckleballer, and since hitting his stride in 2010 has redefined the pitch.
Dickey throws the knuckler much harder than his predecessors – it ranges from 75-80 mph. This season, he’s thrown it more than 86 percent of the time. He’ll also throw a mid-80s fastball and on very rare occasions will mix in a straight changeup. Righthanded batters are hitting .172 this season off Dickey and lefties are at .212.
Ruiz is 4 for 13 off Dickey. Shane Victorino also has four hits off the knuckleballer and three of them went for extra bases. Other than that, no Phillie has hit Dickey particularly well.
Hamels has struggled historically against the Mets, going 5 for 10 with a 4.34 ERA in 10 starts. These Mets tend to give Hamels problems because they work deep counts and foul off plenty of pitches, thereby shortening his starts.
In terms of matchups, Hamels must not let Scott Hairston beat him, as he has done so often in his career. Hairston is 10 for 26 (.385) off Hamels with four home runs and four doubles. That’s a 1.000 slugging percentage off one of the game’s best lefties.
David Wright has also had success (.304 BA in 46 at-bats).
Will the Phillies finish with a better record than the Mets this season? E-mail Corey Seidman at firstname.lastname@example.org