MLB

Mets-Phillies Preview

PHILADELPHIA -- New York Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom established himself as a rising star last season.

Philadelphia Phillies rookie righty Zach Eflin is just beginning to establish himself, period.

The two pitchers square off Sunday afternoon, when the Mets and Phillies play the rubber game of their three-game series in Citizens Bank Park.

DeGrom (5-4, 2.61) has recently begun to show the dominating form he displayed last year, when he went 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA during the regular season and 3-1 with a 2.88 ERA in four postseason starts for the National League champions.

He has gone 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA and 20 strikeouts (compared to four walks) in 20 innings over his last three starts, and his last time out he worked seven innings in a 4-2 victory over Miami. He allowed two runs on six hits while striking out seven and walking two.

He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning unscathed, and thereafter only allowed solo homers to Giancarlo Stanton in the fourth and sixth innings.

"(I feel) better than where I started," deGrom said afterward, according to Major League Baseball's official web site. "Things are starting to come back, and I was pretty happy about today."

He is 3-0 with a 3.03 ERA in six career starts against the Phillies, and the Mets have won all six of those outings.

Eflin (2-2, 4.08) was hit hard by Toronto in his first major league start, on June 14, allowing nine runs (eight earned) on nine hits in 2 2/3 innings, but since then he has gone 2-1 with a 2.20 ERA. He earned his first major league victory on July 5, going the distance to beat Atlanta 5-1, then followed that up with a 10-3 victory in Colorado five days later.

Over his last two starts, he has gone 15 innings and yielded three runs on 13 hits while striking out nine and walking two.

"You just can't live in the past," Eflin said of his bounceback, according to MLB.com. "You've just always got to have your head high. I learn after every outing and I learned a lot after that one (against the Rockies). I've done a good job of just keeping the ball down and throwing all of the pitches for strikes and keeping the hitters guessing."

The Mets won the series opener 5-3, but the Phillies answered with a 4-2 victory Saturday night, as Maikel Franco drove in the go-ahead run with a seventh-inning single.

Franco is hitting .370 over his last 18 games, raising his average from .235 to .265, and has 17 RBIs in his last 15. His 18 homers and 54 RBIs lead the team and are third among major league third basemen, and on Saturday he blooped the first pitch he saw from Mets reliever Hansel Robles -- a 97 mph fastball -- into left field to snap a 2-2 tie.

"I know it was a good situation for me," Franco said. "I just want to put the ball in play. Something good happened, and I'm glad something good happened for me, and for my team, too."

Franco had shown considerable promise in his first extended big league trial in 2015, hitting .280 with 14 homers and 50 RBIs in 80 games, but found himself in the throes of a frustrating slump earlier this season.

That is now behind him.

"He looks like he's staying on the ball better," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He's fouling off some tough pitches to right field. He's just not flying off the ball like he has been, and he's getting results."

Mackanin added that Franco is "real close" to resembling the player he was a year ago.

"He's going to have a good year," Mackanin said. "I think he's only going to get better as the season goes along."

The Phillies have won 11 of their last 15 games, while the Mets have dropped four of five.

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