Subtract a hiccup in Houston last week and the New York Mets are one of the hottest clubs in the major leagues.
The Mets are still playing good baseball despite a three-game sweep at the hands of Houston last week, and will shoot for their fourth straight win tonight against the NL East-rival Philadelphia Phillies in the second portion of a three-game series from Citizens Bank Park.
New York rallied for a 5-2 win in Monday's series opener thanks to pinch- hitter Jordany Valdespin's go-ahead three-run homer with two outs in the top of the ninth inning off of Phillies high-priced closer Jonathan Papelbon. David Wright tied the game at 2-2 with a two-run double in the sixth inning off of Phillies ace Roy Halladay.
"To come back against Roy [Halladay] and tie the game up, then to finish the game with two guys that weren't even in the game with huge hits, great win for us," Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Mike Nickeas kept the Mets alive with a double to move Ike Davis, who walked, to third base. Valdespin followed with his first major league hit. The Mets have won three in a row and eight of 13 games, and will also visit Miami on this six-game road trip. The Mets have prevailed in six of the last eight matchups with the Phillies.
Miguel Batista will try to pitch New York to another series win over the Phillies when he takes the mound Tuesday. Batista has made one start in 10 appearances this season and is taking over in the rotation for Mike Pelfrey. Batista is 0-1 with a 6.92 earned run average over 13 innings pitched and his only decision came on April 23 in a 6-1 setback to San Francisco.
Batista allowed six runs and eight hits in a season-high 3 2/3 innings. The right-hander faced Philadelphia in an 8-2 loss on April 15 and was reached for a run and two hits in just one-third of an inning. Batista is 3-3 with a 4.42 ERA in 26 career games (8 starts) against the Phillies.
Meanwhile, Papelbon was dealt the loss -- his first with the Phils -- and Halladay's night was finished after seven innings and two runs earned. He struck out seven Mets and walked just one.
"He might have been a little rusty," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of his closer, who hadn't pitched since last Tuesday in Atlanta.
John Mayberry had a sacrifice fly and Placido Polanco drove in a run for Philadelphia, which was coming off a 3-3 road trip and opened an eight-game homestand on a sour note. The Phillies will play 14 of 16 games at home.
In other Phillies news, left-hander Cole Hamels was suspended five games and fined for intentionally hitting Washington Nationals rookie outfielder Bryce Harper in the back during Sunday's 9-3 win.
"It's kind of disappointing it even happened," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said on the club's website. "If what he said is true, I'm kind of disappointed. Obviously, that's not what we're about. We're not about trying to injure people, if that's what people are thinking out there."
Right-hander Joe Blanton gets the nod for the Phillies on Tuesday and he is searching for his third straight win. Blanton has defeated both the Cubs and Braves, and improved to 3-3 in six game (5 starts) with a three-hit shutout in Atlanta last Thursday. Blanton struck out six and did not walk a batter in the 4-0 victory, and lowered his ERA from 3.81 to 2.83.
Blanton is 2-0 in two home starts in 2012 and 3-1 with a 3.50 ERA in nine career starts against the Mets. Blanton hasn't lost at Citizens Bank Park since May 8, 2010 versus Atlanta. He's 7-0 in 19 home appearances (17 starts) since then. For his career, Blanton is 16-6 in south Philly.
"It's always nice to pitch at home, I guess," Blanton said after downing the Cubs late last month. "You throw here more than any other place, so there's definitely a comfort level when you're out there. You're in your home clubhouse. You're in your own weight room. You know where everything is. You're in front of your home fans, and that's always good."