Myers, Phillies blank Mets to cut NL East deficit to two games

NEW YORK -- Mike Schmidt figures Philadelphia has a psychological edge over the Mets. On this night, though, Brett Myers was New York's biggest problem.

Myers buzzed through the Mets' lineup, pitching eight dominant innings and leading the Phillies to a 3-0 victory Friday that cut their NL East deficit to two games.

"This is his best game this year. This is definitely the most impressive. Right on time, too," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said.

Greg Dobbs hit a two-run homer off Mike Pelfrey (13-9) and the Phillies took the opener of a crucial series between the top teams in the division. Brad Lidge got through a shaky ninth, retiring Carlos Beltran and Ryan Church with two on to end New York's sixth loss in 23 games.

Philadelphia began last September's rally past the collapsing Mets with a three-game sweep at Shea Stadium, and Schmidt wants to see the Phillies do it again. So he sent the team an inspirational message that is sure to rankle Mets fans.

A Philadelphia star from 1972-89 and now a special instructor in spring training for the club, Schmidt wrote Manuel an e-mail that he posted on the inside door of the clubhouse for his players to see as they headed out for batting practice Friday.

Part of it read: "the Mets know you're better than they are. They remember last year."

Call it the latest public boast in this now-bitter rivalry.

"To each his own. He's obviously biased in his e-mails or letters," New York third baseman David Wright said. "I see a starting pitcher that goes out there and throws like Brett Myers -- that works much better than a rally cry from a former player."

Shane Victorino helped manufacture a run in the first inning, giving Myers all the offense he needed. The right-hander allowed three hits and struck out 10 in another overwhelming performance.

"He's become the top-tier pitcher everybody knew he was," Dobbs said.

After struggling early this season, Myers (9-10) is 6-1 in nine outings since coming back from the minors July 20. He is 4-0 with a 0.58 ERA in his past four starts spanning 31 innings -- holding the opponent scoreless three times.

"I always knew I could do it. I had to go down there to get in shape to see if I could do it at this level," Myers said. "I knew it was going to be a dogfight going in. Pelfrey has been pitching great and I had to try to match him or do even better."

Lidge remained perfect in 34 save chances this year. He completed Philadelphia's NL-leading 11th shutout this season, while New York was blanked for the fifth time.

Wright doubled with one out in the ninth and went to third on Carlos Delgado's single. But Beltran flied to shallow left on a 3-1 pitch and Victorino ran down Church's long drive to center.

With two meetings left this weekend, Philadelphia improved to 6-10 against the Mets this season. The Phillies won the final eight matchups last year and overtook their rivals to win the division.

"I have absolutely nothing to say to Mike Schmidt," Delgado said. "I guess he was bored one afternoon, so fine with me."

Victorino got Philadelphia started when he singled in the first, stole second and continued to third on a throwing error by catcher Brian Schneider. Chase Utley delivered an RBI groundout.

With two outs in the seventh, Dobbs drove a 2-2 pitch to right and the ball skimmed off the top of Church's glove as he leaped at the fence.

When he came down, Church looked at his glove and slammed it on his knee in frustration.

"It just took off at the last second. It's tough to time that stuff," Church said.

Pelfrey lost for the first time in five starts, yielding two earned runs and four hits in seven innings.

"We didn't play great baseball, but we just ran into a pitcher who was very hot. When that happens, you're not going to fare very well," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "We'll be fine."

Game notes
New York closer Billy Wagner (elbow) threw another bullpen session and said it went well. He and the Mets are targeting a Tuesday return, but Wagner thinks it might be better to hold off until next weekend against Atlanta. ... If Saturday's game is rained out, as expected, the teams plan to play a day-night doubleheader on Sunday. ... The Mets homered in their previous 14 games. ... Myers threw 118 pitches and struck out eight of 11 batters during one stretch that included an intentional walk. ... Plate umpire Paul Emmel ejected Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee in the sixth after Dubee visited the mound following Daniel Murphy's two-out double. Murphy had taken a close pitch with two strikes. ... Left-hander Ricardo Rincon made his Mets debut and got two outs in his first big-league game since April 18, 2006, with St. Louis.