While the Philadelphia Phillies hold their collective breath on the status of starting pitcher Roy Halladay, current ace Cole Hamels looks to continue his hot start when the club opens a three-game series today against the NL East-rival New York Mets at Citi Field.
Halladay exited Sunday's 8-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals with right shoulder soreness and threw just 36 pitches. One of those offerings went over the wall in Busch Stadium on Yadier Molina's two-out grand slam in the opening frame. Halladay is expected to meet with doctors on Tuesday and is unsure about his next start.
"If we have to fill a rotation spot, we'll get somebody to fill it," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "The games will go on. I've been in this game a long time. I hate to see players get hurt, probably more than you'd ever realized. But at the same time, it moves on. You have to."
Halladay fell to 4-5 with the loss, while Joe Savery did no better in relief, allowing two runs in two innings. Chad Qualls also gave up a pair of runs in two innings on the hill. Juan Pierre highlighted the offense with three hits, two RBI and a run scored. Hunter Pence and Carlos Ruiz had two hits apiece for the Phillies, who had a four-game winning streak stopped and were aiming for their first four-game sweep in the Gateway City since 1913.
Meanwhile, Hamels has won four straight starts and is 7-1 with a 2.17 earned run average in nine trips to the mound this season. Hamels is one of six pitchers with seven wins on the season and the Phillies have won each of his last eight outings, including last Wednesday's 4-1 triumph over Washington in which he tossed eight scoreless innings and struck out eight batters.
Hamels, the 2008 World Series MVP, is 3-0 in four road starts this season and will try to defeat New York for the second time in 2012. The lefty won his first start of the season against the Mets in an 8-2 win back on April 15, when he held the visitors to a pair of runs in seven innings to go along with a season-high 10 strikeouts. Hamels hasn't fared so well in his career against the Mets as evidenced by his 4-10 record and 4.33 ERA in 18 starts.
New York will resume its season-high 11-game homestand today and opened the residency by taking three of four matchups from the San Diego Padres.
The Mets recorded their third straight win and sixth in eight tries with Sunday's 2-0 victory over the Padres at Citi Field. R.A. Dickey became one of the six pitchers with seven wins after the knuckleballer threw 7 1/3 shutout innings and fanned 10 batters with only one walk.
"The game is about ebbs and flows and right now, I'm fortunate to be in the middle of a flow," said Dickey. "The key is just don't get out of the water, regardless of where you are."
Tim Byrdak got the final two outs in the eighth inning and Frank Francisco earned his 13th save in the ninth. Daniel Murphy had an RBI single and both David Wright and Mike Baxter scored a run for the Mets, who are 2 1/2 games behind Washington for the NL East lead and improved to 15-9 as the host. The Mets also own a 14-7 mark against the NL East.
Mets shortstop Ronny Cedeno was held out of the lineup on Sunday after a right leg cramp forced him to leave Saturday's game in the eighth inning. Justin Turner filled in and went 2-for-3 on Sunday.
Taking the mound for the hosts today will be Jonathan Niese. Niese was 0-2 in six starts before posting his third win of the season in last Wednesday's 3-1 victory at Pittsburgh, where he held the Pirates to a run over 7 2/3 innings. The effort lifted Niese's record to 3-2 in nine starts and lowered his earned run average to 4.29.
Niese, a left-hander, is 1-0 in two starts against the Phillies this season and 4-4 with a 3.58 ERA in 10 career matchups in this series.
New York has won five of six meetings with Philadelphia this season and swept a three-game series in south Philly from May 7-9. The Mets are 8-2 in the past 10 contests against the division-rival Phillies.