NEW YORK -- A good ending to a long road trip kept the New York Mets talking in the present tense for at least a little while longer. The Philadelphia Phillies, meanwhile, will arrive in New York on Friday having taken another step toward their future.
The Mets host the Phillies in the opener of a three-game series Friday night at Citi Field. New York (64-63) edged closer to the pack in the National League wild card race Thursday night by beating the St. Louis Cardinals, 10-5.
The win gave the Mets a series win in the three-game set against the Cardinals and pulled them within 3 1/2 games of St. Louis for the second wild card. New York went 5-5 on a 10-game road trip but ended the three-city trek with four wins in five games against the San Francisco Giants, who are currently the first wild card, and the Cardinals.
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The Mets' two wins against the Cardinals came in games in which starter Jonathon Niese lasted just one out before exiting due to a knee injury and in which rookie Seth Lugo threw five shutout innings in place of left-hander Steven Matz, who is on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.
"I don't care who we're playing. we've got to put some wins on the board," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We've got to get some streaks going, get back in the hunt here. Hopefully we get our pitching straightened away here in the next couple days where, going into that last month of the season, we'll know who is going to be out there."
The Mets will send their one sure thing -- 43-year-old Bartolo Colon -- to the mound in Friday's series opener. Colon, the oldest player in baseball, will be making his team-high 26th start and will be looking for his 12th win, which would break a tie for the team lead with Noah Syndergaard. If he lasts at least 3 2/3 innings Friday, Colon will also surge past Syndergaard for the Mets lead in innings pitched.
While the ageless Colon pitches for the Mets, the Phillies' youth movement will be on full display with their battery. Adam Morgan, a 26-year-old left-hander, will make his 15th start of the season and the 30th of his career for Philadelphia (59-68), which is headed for its fifth straight non-winning season.
Morgan may be throwing to rookie catcher Jorge Alfaro, who is expected to be promoted following Thursday's trade that sent 37-year-old catcher Carlos Ruiz to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for fellow aging backstop A.J. Ellis, minor league pitcher Tommy Bergjans and a player to be named later.
With Ruiz gone, the only member of the Phillies' 2008 World Series-winning squad still wearing a Philadelphia uniform is first baseman Ryan Howard, who is sure to depart following the season. While general manager Matt Klentak said the organization was glad to give Ruiz a chance at pursuing another ring, he acknowledged the trade will leave a big hole to fill for a rebuilding club.
"Carlos has been such an important leader for so long, we knew we had to fill a role on and off the field," Klentak told CSNPhilly.com. "There is a reasonably good chance one of our young catching prospects will be in the big leagues before the season is over."