Phillies enter New York, hoping to leave still in first place.

The Phillies (53-46) goes to New York to meet the Mets (53-46) for an important three games series for first place in the National League East. The first game of the series will be played tonight in Shea Stadium and will start at 7:10 pm Eastern. The Phillies will send to the mound their new acquistion, Joe Blanton (5-12, 4.96), who is pitching for the first time since his start as an Oakland Athletics against the Mariners back on July 9. That would end up being his twelfth lost of the season, as he would pitch six innings, giving up six earned runs on nine hits, in the A’s 4-6 lost. This will be both Blanton’s first start as a Phillie, and his first start as a National League pitcher. But this will not be the first time that he has faced the Mets. In two previous starts, for the A’s, he has shut them down for fifteen innings, giving up no runs. This will be Blanton’s first start in thirteen days and the Phillies hope that he will be well rested and ready to continue his success against the Mets, as the Phillies will try to win their first series of the second half and regain control of first place. The Mets’ starter will be Johan Santana (8-7, 3.10), who is coming off a no-decision against the Reds on July 17, as he would last only four innings, giving up five earned runs on six hits, in the Mets’ 10-8 come from behind victory. Santana has lost four of his last seven starts, during which his record would be 1-4 with two no-decisions, both of which were lost by the Mets, where he would pitch a combine total of forty-five innings, giving up eleven earned runs on thirty-eight hits. His last start against the Phillies was on July 4, one of his two no-decisions, during which he would go eight innings, giving up only two earned runs on six hits, in the Mets’ 3-2 lost. This year, his record against the Phils is 1-0, with a no-decision, where he has given up five earned runs in fifteen innings of work. He will be trying for his ninth win of the year while trying to set up the tone for the Mets’ series with the presently floundering Phils.

The Phillies’ offense will be once again trying to regain the potent offense that they had in late May and early June, which seems to have vanished after their twenty run outburst in St. Louis on June 13. The Phillies have not done too well this season against divisional opponents, outside of the Atlanta Braves, presently being only 3-7 against the Mets. The Phillies will be trying for their first series win against the Mets, as well as of the second half, as they hope to take advantage of Mets’ closer Billy Wagner’s present day-to-day status because of a bad shoulder. But, in order to do that, they will need to start playing more situational baseball, the lack of which manager Charlie Manuel has blasted them about after losing Sunday’s game with the fish. If they don’t, they will definately be saying hello to the Nationals before the end of August.

The Phillies are presently tied with the Mets’ for first place in the National League East, both leading the Marlins by a full game, and the Braves by six, after the Braves’ defeat of the fish last night in Miami in the first game of a three games set between the two teams.

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