The New York Mets' season has become considerably more intriguing since David Wright last appeared in the lineup in April.
The Mets were the surprise team in baseball in that month, and they've ridden that hot start to the top of the NL East. Jacob deGrom has gone from a top prospect to a Cy Young candidate, and Yoenis Cespedes and others have arrived to power a resurgent offense.
The Mets get another positive development in a season full of them when Wright makes his long-awaited return in the opener of a four-game road series against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday night.
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What started as a mild right hamstring strain April 14 turned into a career-threatening diagnosis of lumbar stenosis for Wright. Months of uncertainty ended with an eight-game rehab stint at Class-A St. Lucie, in which Wright hit .321, and was followed by the news of his impending return.
Wright joins the Mets (67-56) after their three-game sweep in Colorado that pushed their division lead to five games over Washington.
"The surroundings are a little different now than they were in the middle of April," manager Terry Collins told MLB's official website. "Each and every game is huge. It means a lot."
Collins said Wright will not be used every day at third base in order to keep him healthy. Still, the addition of New York's longest-tenured player should be a boost.
"I can honestly tell you I'm excited to have him back because his presence on our team is big," Collins said. "You've seen the difference in our clubhouse when he's there. There's a different atmosphere."
Wright has watched from afar as deGrom has grown into one of the league's best pitchers, and he'll get a closer look Monday.
DeGrom (12-6, 1.98 ERA) has gone 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his last seven starts with 56 strikeouts and 26 hits allowed in 48 2-3 innings.
His .155 opponent batting average in that span that started July 8 is the lowest in the majors during that time, while his 0.72 WHIP is second to Clayton Kershaw's 0.71.
DeGrom has gone 2-0 with a 1.67 ERA in four career starts against the Phillies. He's limited them to two runs over 13 2-3 innings in two starts this season, both Mets victories.
Philadelphia (50-74) has won three straight and four of five behind strong pitching from a young staff, with Adam Morgan (4-4, 3.92) a part of that group.
The rookie left-hander has gone 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA in his last three starts, and his seven innings in a 7-4 win over Toronto on Wednesday matched a career high. He held the highest-scoring team in the majors to two runs and five hits.
"Any team you face is a good team," Morgan said. "So any team I face and do well against is a confidence booster."
Andres Blanco has been on a tear for the Phillies, extending his hitting streak to six games with a 2-for-4 effort in Sunday's 2-0 victory over Miami. He's batting .417 with two home runs in that stretch and has four doubles in his past three.
Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz are a combined 3 for 21 against deGrom, while Freddy Galvis has three singles in six at-bats.