A successful homestand leading up to the All-Star break has the Philadelphia Phillies thinking they are still contenders in the NL East.
The Phils will try to stay on that line of thinking with a solid road trip out of the hiatus, beginning on Friday night with the first of three straight against the New York Mets.
With the front office hinting that a losing residency could result in the club becoming sellers ahead of the July 31 trade deadline, the Phillies won seven of their 10 home games and nine of 13 overall to close the first half at 48-48. That put Philadelphia at the .500 mark for the first time since June 7 and has the club 6 1/2 games back of Atlanta for first place in the division.
"What's meaningful is that we're not out of the race, with 60-something games left," said Phils shortstop Jimmy Rollins. "That's going to determine the season. I've said it before, no matter how good you are, you're going to lose 50 games and win 50 games. So those 62 is where it makes the difference."
So will this upcoming nine-game road trip, which features some tough matchups for the Phillies. After doing battle with the rival Mets, they will visit the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals before playing three against the top team in the AL Central, the Detroit Tigers.
Philadelphia lost a key piece of its offense right before the break as center fielder Ben Revere broke his ankle during the 11th inning of the first game of last Saturday's doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox and is slated to miss 6-to-8 weeks following surgery on Tuesday.
First baseman Ryan Howard has the same timetable following left knee surgery in early July and pitchers Roy Halladay (right shoulder) and Mike Adams (partially torn right rotator cuff) are also out.
Kyle Kendrick has helped keep the rotation in order following the loss of Halladay and is 8-6 with a 3.68 earned run average through 19 starts this season. He had allowed nine earned runs and 21 hits over back-to-back losses before beating the Washington Nationals last Thursday. The righty held them to a run on five hits and a walk over seven innings.
Kendrick is 7-7 lifetime versus the Mets with a 3.19 ERA in 20 games (14 starts). The 28-year-old has limited New York to just a pair of runs in two victories this year, including a three-hit shutout in New York on April 26.
Kendrick will step on the mound tonight at Citi Field, which is fresh off of hosting this week's All-Star Game festivities. The exhibition matchup featured a lot of Mets flavor, including David Wright captaining the NL's Home Run Derby squad and young hurler Matt Harvey starting the game.
Harvey gave up a double to begin the All-Star Game and then hit New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano with a pitch before retiring the next six batters faced, three by way of strikeout.
Wright, meanwhile, had one of the NL's three hits in a 3-0 loss.
Like the Phillies, the Mets closed the first half strong with a 6-3 road trip and with victories in 17 of their last 28 games. Still, New York is nine games under .500 and 11 contests out of first place.
"It's nice that we've kind of proven to ourselves, we have a little more confidence moving forward into the second half, but there is still a long ways to go. But we did have a nice month after a couple of bad months, so it was nice to progressively get better," noted Wright.
Jeremy Hefner has gotten stronger as the season has gone on for the Mets and looks to avoid his first loss since June 11 tonight.
The right-hander has a 1.76 ERA over his last eight outings and is 3-0 in his past six. New York had won the first five of that stretch before dropping a 3-2 extra-inning contest to Pittsburgh last Friday. Hefner allowed two runs and three hits over seven innings of a no-decision.
Hefner is 4-6 with a 3.33 ERA in 19 games (18 starts) this season. The 27- year-old has a 2-2 record and 11.02 ERA in five previous meetings with the Phillies, all but one of those starts, but held them to just a pair of earned runs over six innings in a victory on June 21.
The Phillies are 6-3 versus the Mets this season, sweeping a three-game set in New York from April 26-28. They have won their past six at Citi Field.