PHILADELPHIA -- If the Phillies are serious about making a run at .500, and maybe even the National League Wild Card, they have to win series against teams like the Mets.
They have an opportunity to do so following Saturday night's 4-2 victory over the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard launched a solo homer in the second inning, and third baseman Maikel Franco slapped a single to left field with one out in the seventh to score Peter Bourjos from second base to give the Phillies (43-49) a one-run lead. Carlos Ruiz scored an insurance run on a wild pitch in the eighth as Jeanmar Gomez picked up his 25th save in the ninth.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Be like Maik: Franco had been scuffling for much of the season, but he has caught fire the last few weeks. He is hitting .354 (29-for-82) with five doubles, one triple, seven home runs, 21 RBIs and a 1.119 OPS in his last 21 games. He is hitting .235 (26-for-80) with runners in scoring position this season.
"I think he's better than what he was last year," Howard said. "I think getting that experience, every year you get a little more, and that makes you better. He's just really in a good, comfortable spot right now." More >
Leaving 'em juiced: With runners on second and third and one down in the seventh, Kelly Johnson pinch-hit for Logan Verrett. He lifted a fly ball to Cody Asche in left and d'Arnaud got set to tag from third. But Johnson's ball went only 228 feet, and d'Arnaud stayed put 90 feet away from scoring the go-ahead run. After a Reyes walk, Asdrubal Cabrera again hit one Asche's direction, toward the gap. But the left-fielder made a sliding grab and ended the biggest threat from either team to snap the tie until the next inning, when Franco drove home Bourjos, who reached on a throwing error by Cabrera.
"I had all the time to make a good throw," Cabrera said. "I just threw the ball a little bit harder, and the ball got away."
Eickhoff bounces back: Eickhoff might have been the Phillies' best starter in the first half of the season, although he allowed a career-high eight runs on July 9 in Colorado. But he returned to form against the Mets. He allowed five hits, two runs, one walk and struck out three in six-plus innings. He also doubled and scored the game-tying run in the fifth.
"He's not as sharp as I've seen him," Mackanin said. "He really wasn't that sharp, and he pitched well enough to win. Too many baserunners for my liking, but he got us into the seventh inning." More >
Verrett again solid vs. Phils: Only seven of Verrett's 25 appearances this season have come as starts, but two of those have come against the Phillies. And he has verifiably shut down the Phils each time. Although Verrett didn't quite match his first start in Philadelphia -- six shutout innings back in April -- he again went six innings, surrendering just two runs and left with the ballgame tied.
"I'm trying to attack the hitters and attack the strike zone," Verrett said. "The best way to do that is getting that first-pitch strike over. That's always the goal. I feel like I did a good job of that today."
"I know it was a good situation for me. I just wanted to put the ball in play, and something good happened for me and my team, too." -- Franco, on his game-winning hit against Hansel Robles
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Howard hit his 370th career homer in the second inning, tying him with Gil Hodges for 77th place on the all-time home run list. Howard's 46 homers against the Mets are the most among active players. He also ranks fifth all-time behind Willie Stargell (60), Chipper Jones (49), Mike Schmidt (49) and Willie McCovey (48). Howard had been tied with Hank Aaron for fifth.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Eickhoff nearly made a crucial play in the seventh thanks to a heads-up play on the mound. He fielded a Brandon Nimmo comebacker and caught d'Arnaud off of second base. But as d'Arnaud retreated, Eickhoff made a high throw that drew Freddy Galvis away from the bag. He got the tag down and umpires initially ruled d'Arnaud out at second. Mets manager Terry Collins challenged and replay officials overturned the call, giving the Mets runners at first and second. Collins is now 7-for-16 on challenges this season.
WHAT'S NEXT Mets:Jacob deGrom (5-4, 2.61 ERA) makes his first start of the second half in Sunday's finale against the Phillies at 1:35 ET. He has allowed just three runs over his last three starts, spanning 20 innings.
Phillies: Rookie right-hander Zach Eflin (2-2, 4.08 ERA) pitches the series finale against the Mets. Since he allowed nine runs in 2 2/3 innings in his big league debut June 14 in Toronto, Eflin is 2-1 with a 2.20 ERA in his last five starts.