PHILADELPHIA -- Just when the Mets and Phillies thought their rivalry might be fading, Chase Utley and David Wright did their best to stoke the flames.
Wright was critical of Utley after Friday's game, in which the Phillies second baseman slid hard into Ruben Tejada in an effort to break up a fifth-inning double play.
"Chase plays the game hard," Wright said. "He plays the game passionately. But there's a thin line between going out there and playing the game hard and going out there and trying to get somebody hurt."
With two men on base and one out in the fifth, Jayson Werth hit a bouncing ball to third, where Wright relayed to Tejada at second base. Planted on the bag, Tejada spun and threw to complete the double play.
A split-second later, just as he was arriving at the second-base bag, Utley dropped to the ground and upended Tejada -- a 20-year-old rookie who did not join his teammates in their criticisms.
"It's baseball," Tejada said, noting that Utley asked if he was OK after the play.
But Wright and his teammates were not so forgiving.
"He's a second baseman," Wright said when asked if Utley's slide was clean. "He knows what it's like to turn a double play, and he knows the difference between a good, clean slide and a slide that's late. That's a better question for him. But if he doesn't mind guys coming like that after him, then everything's good."
"He waited to slide until he was even with the bag, and if that makes it dirty then it was dirty," Mets starter R.A. Dickey said. "That's a fact."
Utley, who declined to discuss the play after the game, came to the plate once more Friday. The Mets did not throw anywhere close to his body.
But Dickey, Wright and Mets manager Jerry Manuel all indicated afterward that the Mets may retaliate at some point in the future.
"We'll move on, and we'll reevaluate the way that we go into second base," Wright said.
"They'll take care of it," Manuel said of his team. "They'll take care of it."
Rival's clinch could be lesson for young Mets
PHILADELPHIA -- Entering their final road series at Citizens Bank Park on Friday, the Mets faced the very real possibility that the Phillies could clinch a playoff berth at some point this weekend. Their rivals' magic number stood at four, meaning any combination of four Phillies victories -- at the Mets' expense -- or Braves losses would do the trick.
Such is a sight that no team wants to watch: an opposing team gathering at the mound, jumping and shouting and grinning and clinching. But perhaps, manager Jerry Manuel said, witnessing a clincher would not be the worst fate for the Mets.
"We know eventually with what they have, they're going to celebrate at some point," Manuel said of the Phillies. "You don't want to see it happen. On the flip side of that, with as many young players as we have, it might be good that they witness that to see what that is like, and to hunger for that at some point in their careers."
Of the 33 players on their active roster, just four -- David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Mike Pelfrey -- were around when the Mets last held a champagne celebration in 2006. Though some others, such as Luis Castillo and Henry Blanco, have played in the postseason, the vast majority of New York's roster never has.
And it's impossible to replicate that feeling.
"You can take it a couple ways," Manuel said of a potential Phillies clincher. "We've got such young talent. You'd like them to experience it as quick as they can but if they have to [watch] their rival, it might not be a bad thing."
Manuel bats hot Duda second for matchups
PHILADELPHIA -- Lucas Duda was as surprised as anyone back in early September, when Mets manager Jerry Manuel, impressed by the rookie outfielder's batting-practice sessions, slotted him second in the lineup for his second career game.
Duda, who did not have a hit at the time, went on to record just one knock in his first 34 big league at-bats. But Duda has since begun thriving, entering Friday's play with three singles, three doubles and two home runs over his last 16 at-bats. And so, seeking to break up the switch-hitters in his lineup, Manuel shifted Duda back to second in the lineup for Friday's game against the Phillies.
"I wanted to break up those lefties against a team that could potentially bring in a left-hander and with Angel [Pagan]," Manuel said. "He gives me that kind of flexibility."
By shifting Pagan, a switch-hitter, to sixth in the lineup, Manuel made his team less vulnerable to one of the Phillies' two primary late-inning lefties, J.C. Romero and Antonio Bastardo. Had Duda, a left-hander, batted sixth, the Mets would have had three lefties clumped together in the middle of the lineup. And Manuel did not want the hot-hitting Duda slotted too low on the card.
Mets likely won't stretch out Perez to start
PHILADELPHIA -- When the Mets assigned Pat Misch, who has little future potential with the team, to start Sunday's game in Philadelphia, it begged a curious question: What about Ollie?
Oliver Perez, who has not pitched since Sept. 6, has recently said that he would appreciate another chance to start for the Mets. And the Mets could have used some positive performances from Perez if they are to have any chance of trading him -- and the $12 million remaining on his contract -- this offseason.
But Manuel cited Perez's sporadic use as reason to keep him shelved.
"He hasn't been stretched out in such a long period of time," Perez said. "It would be difficult to start him and expect any type of length."
Misch, who hasn't thrown more than one inning in any game since August, may not be able to give the Mets much more length than Perez would have. But Manuel nonetheless felt more comfortable giving the ball to Misch.
"I don't think we had the time to [stretch out Perez]," Manuel said. "It wouldn't have been fair to him."