Phillies (9-14) at New York Mets (10-10)

First pitch at 7:10

After dropping three of four to the Pirates and five of eight on the home stand, the Phils head to New York and Cleveland for a five-game trip looking to, at best, break even.

Philadelphia is fourth in the division and seven games out of first, looking up at the Braves (15-6), Mets (10-10, 4.5 GB) and Nationals (11-11, 4.5 GB). Only three teams – the Cubs (7-14), Padres (6-15) and Marlins (5-17) –  have worse footing in the NL.

The Phillies took the last series meeting, 2-1, after wins from Cliff Lee and tonight’s starter, Kyle Kendrick. Lee beat tonight’s Other Guy, Dillon Gee, in Game 2. Kendrick topped tomorrow’s scheduled Other Guy, Travis Hefner, in Game 3.

This series offered two of the Phillies best offensive performances so far, two games good for a combined 15 runs. They’ve scored three or fewer in 17 of 24 games overall.

The difference? In their two wins against the Mets, the Phillies hit 6 for 12 with men in scoring position. In their loss, they hit 1 for 6. They were 6 for 37 (.162) last series.

Oddly, their RISP ranks are about average: 13th in average (.257) and 14th in RBI (62) and eighth in at-bats (183). The problem is their major league-high 12 grounded-into-double-play balls with men in scoring position, which kills future opportunities.

Couple that with their 7.10 starter ERA through six games, and their relievers’ six losses on the year, and it’s easy to see why this team’s where it’s at.

Kyle Candrick

To think, you used to cringe upon hearing this guy’s name.

And yet, Kyle Kendrick (1-1, 3.28) has the second-best ERA among Phillie starters, to Lee’s 3.03. Roy Halladay (5.08) is third and Cole Hamels (5.40) is fourth.

After being charged for five runs in a home-opening loss to the Royals in his 2013 debut, Kendrick has tossed three straight quality starts, for a 1.89 ERA.

And given the way he’s worked through jams all year, it’s possible that he gets Billy Butler with the bags full and one out away from safety in the sixth vs. KC. (Chad Durbin entered and Butler blasted a bases-clearing double – three runs charged to Kendrick.)

If so, Kendrick has a 2.16 ERA – even with Clayton Kershaw.

Chew on this: There’s been 13 games in the National League where a starter has surrendered two runs or fewer despite eight hits or more, Kendrick owns two.

Justin Verlander is the only other player in all of baseball with as many.

That will be challenged tonight. Kendrick tossed six innings of two-run ball against the Mets in a 7-3 win on April 10, with the only two runs coming off of solo home runs.

If one were to come with men on, that could be a problem.

Kendrick is 6-5 with a 3.26 ERA in 13 career starts vs. the Mets, despite never serving more than four runs in a start (did it only once, in 2010) and tossing eight quality starts.

His issue, when he’s had one, is the long ball. He’s surrendered 15 bombs in 13 starts against the Mets lifetime. Solo homers have made up his entire run total in five of them.

Catcher John Buck and left fielder Lucas Duda took Kendrick long earlier in this month. Lifetime, they’re 4 for 24 (.167) against him.

David Wright (11 for 34, 2 HR, 4 RBI) is the only current Met with any sort of success against Kendrick. The rest of the roster has hit .194 against him.

The Other Guy

Dillon Gee (1-3, 5.95 ERA) hopes to be turning a corner.

After being hammered in Games 2 and 3 for 12 runs in seven innings (15.42 ERA), Gee tossed 5 2/3 scoreless frames against the Nationals in a 2-0 win his last time out.

One of those middle two starts, though, came against the Phillies, who lit him up for seven earned on 10 hits in only nine outs.

It was the Phillies only three home run game so far, as Ryan Howard, Michael  Young and John Mayberry all left the yard in a span of 3 of 4 batters in the third inning.

That’s been a recurring problem this year for Gee, whose FB% (41.5) has jumped 10 percentage points from 2012, all coming from his 50.3 GB% from last year.

Part of that could be his velocity problem. Gee’s fastball has lost 2.5 m.p.h., and is clocking at 87 m.p.h. this year. Two miles per hour is, simply, huge.

Gee’s 2-2 with a 7.03 ERA against the Phillies in six career starts. Twice, his last one included, he’s surrendered seen or more in only 3 2/3 or fewer innings.

Jimmy Rollins (.636 BA in 7 ABs), John Mayberry (4 for 11, 2 HR, 6 RBI) and Michale Young (4 for 5, 2 HR, 3 RBI) have exceled against Gee.