Phillies (42-48) vs. Mets (47-41)
7:05 p.m. on NBC10
The second half of the major-league season kicks off tonight and the Phillies are home for the first seven games of it. A pair of divisional series open the Phils' post-All-Star break schedule. First up is the Mets, who lost their last three games of the first half and still haven't taken off in 2016.
1. Hellickson on the hill
The MLB trade deadline is 17 days away, giving Jeremy Hellickson the opportunity to impress suitors at most four more times. Hellickson (6-6, 3.92 ERA) is on a solid run right now, with a quality start streak of four and an ERA of 2.16 over that span.
One of Hellickson's potential suitors, the pitching-needy Boston Red Sox, filled a hole on Thursday night by trading 18-year-old pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza to the Padres for All-Star left-hander Drew Pomeranz. The Sox could still use another arm and Hellickson's rental status could appeal to them.
Hellickson faced the Mets twice in his first four starts as a Phillie but hasn't seen them since. He allowed two runs to them over 5⅔ innings to beat them on April 10, then gave up four runs on 10 hits in just 4⅓ innings in a no-decision on April 20.
Current Mets have hit .304 with 16 extra-base hits off Hellickson in 125 at-bats. The most damage has come from Yoenis Cespedes (5 for 12, two homers) and recently signed Jose Reyes (8 for 21, double, homer).
2. Homer-happy Mets
Hellickson's command has been sharp lately, and he's avoided the home run ball, which is always important for him. He's gone three starts in a row without being taken deep after allowing seven homers in his previous five outings.
The Mets hit three home runs off him in his 10 innings earlier in the year and are capable of reaching that number against any starting pitcher on any night. New York's boom-bust offense is second in the NL with 122 home runs but third-worst in runs scored (335) and batting average (.238). Believe it or not, the Mets have scored only seven more runs this season than the Phillies.
Five different Mets have double-digit home runs so far: Cespedes (21), Curtis Granderson and Neil Walker (15), Asdrubal Cabrera (12), and recently demoted Michael Conforto (10).
Citizens Bank Park is obviously a homer-friendly venue, especially when it's 95 degrees like it will be tonight. So far this season, Hellickson's ERA is lower at home (3.77) than it is on the road.
3. The ageless Big Bart
With all the Mets' starting pitching talent, who thought 43-year-old Bartolo Colon would start their first game out of the break? Well, that's the case Friday night, both because of Colon's first-half success and the Mets' mounting pitching injuries. Matt Harvey is out for the season with thoracic outlet syndrome, and Noah Syndergaard is dealing with arm fatigue. Zack Wheeler, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery that cost him all of 2015, remains out until mid-to-late August.
But back to Colon. He enters tonight's game 7-4 with a 3.28 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. In 98⅔ innings, he's struck out 65, walked 17 and allowed 13 home runs. Three of those 13 longballs came in his last start against the Nationals on July 7. And five of those 17 walks came in one game against the Nationals back on May 18. For the most part, Colon has avoided free passes and swings that alter outcomes.
Colon has faced the Phillies 11 times since joining the Mets in 2014. He's 7-3 with a 3.00 ERA, 62 strikeouts and 10 walks in 72 innings. He's faced them twice this season, both in April, pitching six innings each time and allowing one and three runs. Both games were one-run wins for the Phillies.
4. Can Franco stay hot?
The All-Star break came at the wrong time for Maikel Franco, who hit .378 with 13 extra-base hits (seven home runs), 19 RBIs and 18 runs in his final 19 games of the first half.
That hot streak boosted his season numbers to .269/.323/.491 with 18 homers and 52 RBIs. His .813 OPS keeps creeping toward last year's impressive .840 mark, and Franco is on pace for 32 homers and 94 RBIs this season. The Phillies would have liked the production to have been more consistent — Franco went through several prolonged cold spells in the first half — but the numbers are what they are nonetheless.
Franco has played just over a full season the last two years, hitting .274 with 32 homers, 102 RBIs and an .826 OPS in 164 games.
Franco has never done much against the Mets, though. In eight games against them, he's gone 7 for 33 (.212) with no extra-base hits, one RBI, no walks and 10 strikeouts. He's 0 for 8 against Colon.
5. This and that
• At .378, All-Star Odubel Herrera's on-base percentage is the lowest it's been since April 13, which was 80 games ago.
• Reyes has made an immediate impact with the Mets. Leading off in all six games he's played, Reyes has gone 6 for 24 with two doubles and three solo home runs.
• The Mets have hit like crazy at Citizens Bank Park recently. They outscored the Phillies 20-8 in the series here earlier this season. Since 2012, the Mets are 29-12 at CBP.