NEW YORK -- The New York Mets could occupy first place by the end of the day.
With the Mets idle Thursday, the Philadelphia Phillies completed a three-game sweep of the Washington Nationals in D.C. That leaves the Nats (14-7) clinging to a half-game lead over the Mets (13-7) for the top spot in the National League East.
Washington now heads to St. Louis, while the Mets take a six-game winning streak into a weekend series against the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field.
The pitching matchups for Mets-Giants ...
Read the series preview here.
Yoenis Cespedes is expected to be in center field Friday after being out of the starting lineup for five games with a severe bruise to his upper right leg. Cespedes' expected return will coincide with Michael Fulmer -- who was traded away for Cespedes last July 31 -- making his MLB debut with the Detroit Tigers.
FRIDAY'S NEWS REPORTS:
Columnist Kevin Kernan in the Post notes that the Mets' stud-filled rotation is beginning to awaken.
Andrew Beaton in the Journal highlights the early production from the Mets' bullpen. Meanwhile, Puma in the Post writes that an American League scout is not bullish about the relief corps. "I think it's OK," the scout tells Puma. "As the season goes along, you might want to upgrade." The Mets should get two jolts without any external additions. Josh Edgin must be added to the major league roster or optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas by May 8. And when Zack Wheeler returns this summer, Bartolo Colon is expected to land in the bullpen.
Marc Carig in Newsday looks at the early success of the Mets' new middle-infield combo -- Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. "Those guys have been pretty much as advertised," Sandy Alderson tells Carig. In Walker's case, it may be better than advertised. He has nine homers this month -- matching the franchise record for April.
Jay Schreiber in the Times contrasts the Mets and Yankees.
Corey Oswalt allowed seven runs in four innings and Charlotte beat St. Lucie, 10-3. Seth Davis allowed three runs in the eighth and Lexington rallied to beat Columbia, 6-5. Read the full minor-league recap here.
Neil Best in Newsday reviews a new book about Kiner's Korner called "Down on the Korner," by Mark Rosenman and Howie Karpin.
Maria Guardado at NJ.com answers mailbag questions.
BIRTHDAYS: Omir Santos turns 35. ... Tony Armas Jr. is 38. ... Wes Gardner is 55. ... Bob McClure is 64. ... Paul Paez is 24.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU'RE UP: Is the Mets' bullpen for real?