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08/12/10 4:30 PM ET

Hamels aims to strike down Mets' playoff hopes

We've come a long way since May 27.

On that day -- the last time the Phillies stepped foot inside Citi Field -- the Mets completed a three-game sweep over their division rivals, using a 16-0 rout to notch their fifth straight win and hand Philadelphia its fifth consecutive loss. The Phillies had been in first place at the time and have seen their season take some twists and turns.

Now, more than two months later, it's the Mets who are reeling and desperately trying to keep their playoff aspirations alive while the Phillies are finally surging. Despite taking two of three from the Rockies, the Mets are 9-17 since the All-Star break as they begin a three-game series against the Phillies on Friday.

The Mets beat the Rockies on Thursday, pushing back to .500 and within nine games of the division lead in the contentious National League East. Meanwhile, the Phillies -- after winning seven of their past nine games -- are only two games behind the first-place Braves in the division and a game behind in the Wild Card race.

The Mets are hoping that their second series win of the second half can yield that type of momentum, but they'll be dealing with a couple of problems in the series opener: They'll be without closer Francisco Rodriguez -- who was arrested and charged with third-degree assault on Wednesday night -- and the pitching matchup seems to favor the Phillies.

For Friday night's contest, the Mets will be sending knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, and the Phillies will counter with lefty Cole Hamels. Dickey had a rough time in his most recent start, on Sunday, when he lasted just three innings against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Heading into that game, the journeyman right-hander had compiled a 1.59 ERA in his previous five starts.

Hamels, on the other hand, was brilliant facing the Mets on Saturday, giving up just one run in seven innings while striking out 11 and walking none. He may have been the tough-luck loser in a 1-0 game, but his ERA since July 1 is 2.43, and his ERA against the Mets this season is 2.03.

"We're winning," Hamels said after his last start. "I think if I can just go out there and play my part as much as I possibly can, and go deep in ballgames and execute, that's all I can really do, and that's all I can really control."

Phillies: Victorino makes his return
The Phillies activated Shane Victorino off the 15-day disabled list on Thursday and optioned lefty Antonio Bastardo to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Victorino, who is coming off an impressive two-game rehab stint, walked as a pinch-hitter in his return and is batting .250 with a .311 on-base percentage, 15 homers and 20 stolen bases.

Now that Victorino is back, it will be interesting to see how manager Charlie Manuel rotates a suddenly crowded outfield, with Raul Ibanez, Jayson Werth and rookie Domonic Brown also in the mix. Werth started in center field on Thursday night, and Ibanez -- who snapped an 18-game hitting streak by going 0-for-5 -- got the nod in left field.

Mets: Igarashi recalled
Ryota Igarashi, who was recalled on Thursday after the Mets placed Rodriguez on the restricted list, believes he can help the Mets' bullpen. In four August appearances with Buffalo, he struck out four batters, walked two and did not allow a run in 4 2/3 innings.

"The splitter's back," Igarashi said. "And also, I realized when I went there that I had to develop another offspeed pitch. I worked on the curveball, and now it's in good form."

Worth noting
The Mets will host their annual "Fiesta Latina" at Citi Field on Friday night. Players will wear "Los Mets" jerseys, merengue singer Sergio Vargas will perform prior to the game, dance instructors will offer salsa lessons and a mariachi band will roam the ballpark. ... Mets manager Jerry Manuel said that Jonathon Niese's hamstring is fine and he will be able to make his next scheduled start. Niese experienced tightness in the hamstring during his outing on Wednesday. ... The Phillies are now 53-2 when leading after eight innings and 5-44 when trailing at that point.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.