The Philadelphia Phillies have a chance to get out of the NL East cellar for the first time in over two months, and it would again be at the expense of the New York Mets.
Coming off an impressive series sweep of the division leader, the Phillies look to continue their recent surge in the opener of this three-game set with the Mets at Citi Field on Friday night.
Philadelphia (61-72) is all but mathematically assured of missing the postseason for a third straight season, but avoiding its first last-place finish since 2000 may be providing some motivation.
The Phillies are last in the East, one-half game behind New York (62-72). A Philadelphia win on Friday would have the teams switch spots in the standings for the first time since June 27.
The Phillies are surely looking capable of making that happen, winning four in a row and six of seven after beating Washington 8-4 on Wednesday to complete a sweep of that three-game set.
They've hit .302 with eight homers and 22 runs while compiling a 2.50 ERA - 1.13 from the bullpen - during the four-game winning streak, one shy of their season high.
"We're scoring runs, starting pitching has been good and the bullpen is putting up zeros," said right-hander Kyle Kendrick, Wednesday's winning pitcher. "Everyone is doing their jobs."
That's certainly true for Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. Howard is 7 for 17 (.412) with one homer and four RBIs over his last five games, while Rollins has a .368 average (7 for 19) with a pair of homers and three RBIs in his past five.
The duo, however, has combined to hit .211 against the Mets this year, while Chase Utley owns a .343 average in his past 16 games in Queens. The second baseman is 7 for 19 with five extra-base hits and seven RBIs in five games there this year.
The Phillies are giving the ball to David Buchanan (6-7, 4.21 ERA), who has allowed seven runs in 12 2-3 innings while losing two starts - both at home - against the Mets.
The latest came Aug. 11, when he gave up three runs in six innings of a 5-3 defeat. That's part of his 0-2 record over his past three games, but he's not entirely to blame since he was backed with two runs in each contest.
Buchanan yielded two runs in five innings of Saturday's 6-5 loss in 12 to St. Louis.
New York has dropped 10 of 15 games after losing 6-1 to Atlanta on Thursday, concluding a three-game series with back-to-back defeats.
Jacob deGrom (6-6, 3.13) will get a chance to prevent that from becoming a three-game slide, and he has a 1.27 ERA while winning three straight starts at Citi Field.
The right-hander, a contender for the NL Rookie of the Year, wasn't close to being that sharp Saturday after returning from rotator cuff tendinitis. He allowed five runs in six innings of a 7-4 defeat to the Los Angeles Dodgers, hours after being activated from the 15-day disabled list.
"I felt good. But a lot of outings come down to a few pitches, and I didn't make the big pitches when I needed to," deGrom said.
The only runs deGrom surrendered to Philadelphia on May 31 came on a three-run homer in the seventh by Howard, and he was pulled with one out of the 5-4, 14-inning loss.