Mets try to stay motivated vs. Phillies
New York (62-78) at Philadelphia (79-59), 7:05 p.m. ET
NEW YORK -- Late in the Mets' 1975 season when the joy had been drained from their campaign and motivation was in short supply, Dave Kingman acknowledged the Pirates' elimination of his Giants from the 1971 National League Championship Series had fueled him in a meaningless series against the Bucs. To him, payback was in order. Which is to say, motivation is where you find it.
Whether the Mets will find some this weekend when they confront the Phillies for the last time this season is a curiosity. Relatively few of the players who endured the Mets' late-season collapses the past two seasons are playing these days. Relatively few are even on the active roster. So who knows whether the Phillies' surges to the 2007 and '08 division championships will be in the Mets' awareness during the four-games-in-three-days series that begins Friday evening in Citizens Bank Park.
And perhaps the absence of Johan Santana, Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, et al, explains the absence of a conspicuous sense of payback among the Mets during their three-game series against the Marlins. Nary a word about the Fish was heard in the clubhouse in the moments preceding the Mets' three losses to the team that denied them in the 162nd games of 2007 and 2008.
The Mets could have undermined the Marlins. Instead, a three-game visit to Citi Field enhanced Florida's NL Wild Card chances.
David Wright was wont to say the Mets would rise to the occasion against the Phillies. He said as much in July even after the Mets' injuries had begun to accumulate. New York has won five of 14 games against Philadelphia thus far, one of five in the Phillies' bandbox park. The Mets could undermine the Phillies this weekend. It can happen. See 2006 and the Pirates denying the Mets a champagne celebration for three days.
NYM: RHP Nelson Figueroa (2-4, 4.74 ERA)
Facing the same opponent he had beaten six days earlier, Figueroa produced decidedly different results Saturday. The Cubs managed merely one run and struck out 10 times in seven innings against him on Aug. 30 at Wrigley Field. But with a more pitcher-friendly setting Saturday, Figueroa allowed four runs -- on a pair of two-run home runs -- in six innings against the Cubs and lost at Citi Field. He struck out eight, two fewer than the career high he had established at Wrigley, and walked two, but he wasn't nearly as sharp as he had been in Chicago. Now, Figueroa faces the Phillies in their smallish park. He has opposed them twice in relief this season -- pitching 3 1/3 innings and allowing two runs -- and he threw one other inning against them in 2006. Figueroa's ERA in 13 2/3 innings on the road this season in 1.32.
Hamels had a so-so outing against the Astros on Sunday, allowing four earned runs in six innings, throwing 114 pitches, 77 of which were strikes, in a loss. He has struggled against the Mets, going 1-4 with a 4.50 ERA in eight starts. Remarkably, he has allowed 80 baserunners in 48 career innings against New York. No other team he has faced more than twice has a ratio of baserunners per nine inings as high as the 15 per the Mets have against him. Hamels' performance against them this season has been consistent with those numbers -- 21 hits and two walks, a 7.20 ERA and an 0-1 record in two starts (10 innings). Hamels has been more effective at home this season, even though Citizens Bank Park has been the site of 14 of the 22 home runs he has allowed. His record and ERA, produced in 13 starts and 81 innings, there are 5-3 and 3.67. He has made 14 starts and pitched 81 1/3 innings on the road, losing six of nine decisions and producing a 4.98 ERA. Wright has hit for the cycle -- four singles, two doubles, one triple and one home run -- and batted .400 in 20 career at-bats against Hamels.
With Carlos Beltran back, John Maine scheduled to start Sunday (first game) and Delgado and Reyes actually thinking of playing again this season, Gary Sheffield now is talking comeback, too. Two days after Manuel said Sheffield was likely done for the season, the veteran was examined by a doctor Thursday. The diagnosis was sciatica, the prognosis was he might return. Sheffield took batting practice and ran in the outfield hours after declining to have an injection in his back. ... The last time the Marlins swept the Mets in a three-game series in New York was 2003. ... Jeff Francoeur handled an apparent base hit to right by Hanley Ramirez in the fourth inning Thursday, but changed the hit into a force play by throwing to second base. Nick Johnson, unable to run well because of injury, was forced out. Ramirez still had three hits. ... With a hit against Sean West on Thursday, Wright put his batting average against left-handed pitchers at .430, the highest in the big leagues. ... Angel Pagan has hit safely in 18 straight home games.
This date in Mets history -- Sept. 11: Gary Gentry pitched a six-hitter against the Expos in a 4-0 victory at Shea Stadium in 1969. The victory was the seventh straight and the first of three consecutive shutouts for the first-place Mets, who, remarkably, pitched 17 shutouts in their last 60 games that season, never going more than eight games without one in that two-month span.
Jerry Koosman surrendered a two-run home run to Ken Reitz to tie the score with two out in the ninth inning, and the Mets and Cardinals went on to play 25 innings at Shea on this date (and Sept. 12) in 1974. The game ended at 3:13 a.m. ET. Bake McBride scored the winning run from first base when Hank Webb made an errant pickoff throw. It was the third-longest night game in big league history -- seven hours, four minutes -- and the longest one to end in a decision. Fifty players participated; only Wayne Garrett went hitless and had at least 10 at-bats. The Mets had 89 at-bats. (The Yankees and Orioles played 26 innings in Baltimore that night, but that was a doubleheader.)
In 1987, Howard Johnson stole his 30th base of the season to become the eighth player in history and the first in Mets history to have 30 steals and 30 home runs in the same season. Darryl Strawberry became the second Mets player to reach the feat three days later. ... John Olerud became the seventh of nine Mets to hit for the cycle in a 9-5 victory against the Expos at Shea in 1997. Hardly fleet afoot, Olerud saved the triple for last.
Leading the Phillies by six games with 19 games remaining, the Mets lost, 13-5, to the Braves at Shea Stadium in 2007. Mark Teixeira drove in three runs for Atlanta. The loss was the first of six in a seven-game sequence that reduced the Mets' lead to 1 1/2 games. ... Last year, the Mets had a 3 1/2-game lead on the Phillies with 17 games remaining. They were off on Sept. 11, but lost four of their next five games and fell one half-game behind.
Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.
Official game notes On television
WPIX On radio
WFAN 660, WADO 1280 (Español) Up next
Saturday: Mets (Mike Pelfrey, 10-10, 4.83) at Phillies (J.A. Happ, 10-4, 2.77), 4:05 p.m. ET
Sunday: Mets (Tim Redding, 2-5, 5.78) at Phillies (Kyle Kendrick, 0-1, 5.06), 1:05 p.m. ET
Sunday: Mets (John Maine (5-4, 4.52) at Phillies (TBD), 8:05 p.m. ET
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.