Mets in good position heading into series with Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- The New York Mets are in the position every team would like to be in when on the playoff bubble come the end of September.

They control their own destiny with three games to play.

Win at least one of three in Philadelphia, and their season will continue beyond the weekend.

The Mets (85-74) sit atop the wild-card standings, one game ahead of the San Francisco Giants (84-75) and two ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals (83-76).

The Mets entered Thursday -- an off-day for them -- with their playoff chances at 98.6 percent, according to FanGraphs.

"If we win, we'll be fine," outfielder Jay Bruce said, according to NJ.com. "We can't worry about what everyone else is doing."

The Giants host the Dodgers over the weekend while St. Louis hosts Pittsburgh.

In a perfect world, the Mets will have clinched a playoff spot before Sunday and will be able to save rotation stud Noah Syndergaard for the wild-card game.

"We want to go as far as we can," manager Terry Collins said, according to the New York Daily News. "If it means saving him to get us to the next round, we certainly got to consider it."

Home-field advantage in the wild-card game could also make Sunday's game not a must-win to get into the playoffs, but a must-win to play at Citi Field. Collins would then need to make a decision on what to do with Syndergaard.

"When you play in front of our fans, it's an advantage," Collins said. "They are excited. They are loud, they get after it in the stands. (I) think it would be great to play at home. When that decision comes, it's going to be a tough decision to make."

The Mets come to Philadelphia winners in five of seven, including three of four over the Phillies last weekend. They just took two of three from Miami during an emotional three-game series following the death of Jose Fernandez.

Friday's game in Philadelphia (7:05 p.m. EST) features Alec Asher (2-0, 1.66 ERA) on the mound for the home team against Robert Gsellman (3-2, 2.56) and the Mets.

After a players only meeting Wednesday, the Phillies lost their sixth in seven games Thursday in Atlanta.

As another losing, rebuilding campaign winds down to its end, the theme of the weekend will be saying goodbye to Ryan Howard. The longtime Phillies slugger is playing in what are very likely his final games in a Phillies uniform.

Manager Pete Mackanin earlier in the month said he would play Howard -- who has spent a lot of the season coming off the bench -- all weekend to give him a proper exit.

Howard hit a grand slam in Atlanta earlier in the week, his 24th home run of the season, one behind team leader Maikel Franco.

"I want him to go out gangbusters," Mackanin said in an interview earlier in the week on SportsRadio 94.1 WIP in Philadelphia. "He hit that grand slam last night, which got us up to a good lead, and he's been swinging the bat well, much better the second half of the season. I certainly want him to shine the last three days of the season and hopefully the fans will get to see a good performance from him."

A few good performances could potentially help the Phillies spoil their rivals' playoff hopes. Or, at least make them play their play-in game away from Citi Field.