The more ground the Mets make up on the Phillies over the final nine games of the season, the closer they approach what would amount to a significant step forward in New York manager Terry Collins' third year at the helm.
If the 2013 Mets can somehow pass the Phillies for third place in the National League East, they can snap a streak of four consecutive fourth-place finishes. What might seem like a purely aesthetic accomplishment would certainly sweeten the aftertaste of a season geared largely toward building for the future.
With a win on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park, the Mets can draw level in the season series with the Phillies and pull within one game of a tie for third. Daisuke Matsuzaka picked up his second win of the season as the Mets held on for a 6-4 victory in the series opener on Friday night.
Amid the much-discussed campaigns put together by Matt Harvey and rookie Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee has quietly turned in the most consistent and productive season of his four years in the Majors. Gee leads all Mets starters with 187 innings this season and has set career-best marks in starts, strikeouts and Wins Above Replacement. His 2.23 ERA and 1.04 WHIP since the All-Star break are second only to Harvey among the nine Mets that have started games in the second half.
The right-hander lifted the Mets to a series-clinching 1-0 win against the Marlins last Sunday, tossing 7 1/3 shutout innings and lasting into the eighth for the seventh time this year.
"I think the key today was being able to throw offspeed pitches for strikes. I threw a lot of curveballs and changeups, first pitch, especially," Gee said on Sunday. "I tried to get ahead in the count with something other than the fastball."
He will be looking to turn around his fortunes against a Philadelphia offense that has tormented him in 2013 -- Gee has surrendered 16 earned runs, including seven home runs, over just 14 innings in three starts against the Phillies this year.
Tyler Cloyd is searching for answers after getting shelled in his first two starts of September, most recently by the streaking Nationals last Sunday to the tune of five earned runs in four innings that bumped the rookie right-hander's ERA over his last four games to 8.05.
"Any time you have a bad outing, no matter how many good ones you have, you're always disappointed," Cloyd said after Sunday's 11-2 loss. "Obviously I'm more disappointed that I'm pitching bad and not giving the team a chance to win. I've got to figure it out somehow. It's obviously pitch execution, so I've just got to figure it out and see what I'm doing wrong and fix it."
Mets: Wright makes his return in style
Back from a strained right hamstring that took him nearly seven weeks to rehab back to full strength, third baseman David Wright returned to his familiar spot in the batting order for the Mets' series opener against the Phillies on Friday and produced a familiar result against Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels in the first inning.
Wright took the second pitch he saw from Hamels the opposite way for a two-run home run in his first at-bat since Aug. 2. The home run was the 221st of Wright's career, moving him past Mike Piazza and into second place on the Mets' all-time home run list, behind Darryl Strawberry, who had 252 blasts with the Mets. Wright finished 2-for-5 in the win.
"I feel like I've said this a million times but I'll say it again, this is what I do," Wright said before Friday's game. "This is what I love to do. If I'm healthy enough to play, I'm going to play. Therefore, I'm playing, that's as simple as it gets."
Phillies: Kendrick shut down for season
After getting a second opinion on the tendinitis in Kyle Kendrick's throwing shoulder, the Phillies elected to cut the right-hander's season short and replace him in the rotation with Zach Miner for the final days of the season. Kendrick had an initial MRI taken on Tuesday after dealing with shoulder discomfort for over a month, but he was scratched from his scheduled start on Wednesday, and on Friday the team made the decision official.
"He was able to pitch and his stuff was there," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "As far as movement on the sinker, I thought that was a little less the second part of the season. But other than that, he was healthy enough to pitch and it was a normal sensation that he was feeling."
Since June 14, Kendrick was 4-9 with a 6.04 ERA in 17 starts, and he had not earned a win since Aug. 6. Miner has posted a 3.22 ERA in 14 appearances this season and went three innings in Wednesday's start in place of Kendrick.
• The Mets called up Wilfredo Tovar from Double-A Binghamton on Friday in order to provide depth at shortstop after starter Ruben Tejada went down with a broken right leg earlier this week.
• Wright has hit 18 home runs at Citizens Bank Park in his career, which is tied with Turner Field for the most he's hit at a road ballpark.
• Phillies right-hander Michael Stutes was activated from the 60-day disabled list on Friday after rehabbing from right biceps tendinitis.
Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.