Phillies at Mets
7:10 p.m. on NBC10
Riding a four-game winning streak with seven wins in their last nine games, the Phillies gear up for a nine-game road trip that begins Friday night in New York.
Here are five things you need to know about the Phils' series opener with the Mets at Citi Field:
Fight for fourth
For the first time since June 27, the Phillies have a chance to emerge from the basement of the NL East.
A win would put the Phils (61-72) a half-game ahead of the Mets (62-72). The Phillies haven't been ahead of the Mets in the standings in 55 games.
A major reason the Phillies have trailed the Mets for over two months now is their futility against New York. The Phils are 5-11 against the Mets this season and 22-31 against them since 2012.
The lack of success against New York over this three-year span has been strange. The Phils are 215-242 since 2012 and the Mets are 210-248. New York has a .585 winning percentage against the Phillies and a .442 winning percentage against all other teams.
Howard on a roll
It hasn't been one of his patented late-season power surges, but Ryan Howard has had a productive month of August.
The Big Piece went 3 for 5 Wednesday night as the Phils completed a sweep of the Nationals, and over his last 20 games has hit .288/.388/.466 with four doubles, three homers and 18 RBIs.
Split that in half and the numbers have been even more impressive. Over Howard's last 10 games, he's hit .353 (12 for 34) with three doubles, a homer and seven RBIs. Most impressively, he has seven walks and eight strikeouts over that span.
Howard's plate discipline has been a bit better this season. He's walked 55 times, putting him on pace for 67, which would be his highest total since 2011.
Howard's season batting average is still just .226, but all the walks have his on-base percentage at .312, which is exactly the National League average.
Obviously, league-average is not what you're hoping for from a $25 million per year player, but based on how disappointing Howard has been over the last three seasons, the Phillies will take what they can get.
Rookie right-hander David Buchanan makes his 15th start of the season and third against the Mets. He enters 6-7 with a 4.21 ERA and 1.32 WHIP.
Buchanan is on an impressive run — he hasn't allowed more than three runs in any of his last 10 starts. During that time he's 5-4 with a 3.47 ERA in 59 2/3 innings, just about six frames per game.
Buchanan has been able to find success by limiting the free passes. He has walked just 2.3 batters per nine innings, the best rate for any Phillies starting pitcher this season other than Cliff Lee.
In two previous starts against the Mets, Buchanan went 0-2 with a 4.97 ERA. But current Mets are just 7 for 42 (.167) against him with no home runs.
Another look at deGrom
When the Phillies faced Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom on May 31, he was still a relative non-factor in New York's grand scheme of starting pitching.
On that night, deGrom struck out 11 Phillies over six innings and put himself on the map. He impressed with a mid-90s fastball and three offspeed pitches: a slider, curveball and changeup. He started the night with six shutout innings before Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley reached base to start the seventh and scored on Howard's three-run homer.
For deGrom, that start completed a breakout month of May, and he hasn't slowed down much since, firmly securing a spot in New York's rotation for the future. That's no small accomplishment, either — with Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon and super prospect Noah Syndergaard in the mix, the Mets will have formidable rotation next year and beyond.
In 17 starts this season, the 26-year-old deGrom is 6-6 with a 3.13 ERA. He's struck out 101 batters and walked 35 in 106 1/3 innings.
After his 16th start, deGrom went on the 15-day DL with shoulder soreness. He returned last Saturday against the Dodgers and allowed five runs over six innings with seven strikeouts in a loss.
But in nine starts before going on the disabled list, deGrom was 6-1 with a 1.82 ERA. He struck out 60 batters in 59 1/3 innings and allowed just one home run.
The Phillies will have their hands full Friday night.
This and that
• Rollins is one walk away from matching his career-high of 62. With 17 home runs, 39 extra-base hits, 27 steals, 61 walks and elite defense at the game's most important position, Rollins has been as productive as a .242 hitter can be.
• Mets first baseman Lucas Duda has 26 home runs, 76 RBIs and 54 walks this season, putting him in pretty elite company. The only six other major-leagues who match all three criteria are Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Trout, David Ortiz, Jose Bautista, Victor Martinez and Josh Donaldson.
• The Phillies' bullpen has a 2.59 ERA in the month of August with 84 strikeouts and just two home runs allowed in 73 innings. Remove Phillippe Aumont from the equation and the 'pen has a 1.90 ERA this month.