NEW YORK: All of a sudden, the Mets are a different team since resuming play at Citi Field. Over the course of their 11-game road trip, they’re bats looked lifeless, and people were wondering what was happening.

Now, over the first two games of their series against the Cardinals, the Mets have scored 15 runs.

Last night, they almost came back to win a game trailing by six for the first time in four years. Although it didn’t happen, it’s encouraging to see the offense come around.

The problem is, just when the Mets start hitting, they get an awful performance from their ace, which is unfortunate.

Today, a little over 12 hours after their 13-inning loss, the Mets will try to win the series with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey pitching on three days’ rest.

The last time Dickey pitched was on Sunday, a game he left after 5.2 innings due to a leg problem.

He was in the midst of throwing perhaps the greatest game of his career against the Dodgers, allowing two hits and striking out six.

At the beginning of the sixth inning, he tripped awkwardly after throwing a pitch, causing some concern from the Mets dugout.

After a second trip to the mound by manager Jerry Manuel and trainer Mike Herbst, Dickey was pulled from the game with two outs in the sixth, and do his dismay, got a no-decision.

Because he’s a knuckleballer, and catcher Josh Thole is Dickey’s personal catcher, Dickey can pitch today on only three days’ rest.

The plan by Jerry Manuel was to have catchers Josh Thole and Henry Blanco catch every other day, and since Blanco is Santana’s personal catcher who caught Santana last night, it lines up the right way to have Dickey pitch this afternoon.

Along with throwing a gem in his last start, Dickey has been impressive all season since his call-up. With the shutout ball that he threw on Sunday, Dickey’s ERA is now 2.55.

Dickey will be opposed by starter/reliever Blake Hawksworth. The Canadian has appeared in 28 games this season, and has started seven games, including five this month.

After pitching decently in his first three starts in July, Hawksworth has not done well in his last two. Against the Phillies and Cubs, he pitched to a 7.84 ERA, allowing 17 hits in 10.1 innings pitched.

Overall this season as a starter and reliever, Hawksworth is 4-6 with a 5.23 ERA. He has allowed 24 more hits than innings pitched, while walking 28 and allowing 10 home runs in only 63.2 innings.

In other words, the Mets have the pitching advantage this afternoon, and if they can hit, they will be fine.

The Mets used every reliever last night except for Oliver Perez, and because Dickey is a knuckleballer, he will be asked to go deep, even on three days’ rest.

Returning to today’s lineup will be Ike Davis, who sat against the lefty Garcia last night but contributed with a game-tying pinch-hit in the eighth.

Jerry Manuel may want to rest Beltran today, after Carlos played 13 innings in the field on his surgically repaired knees. Luis Castillo may rest as well, although none of that is a given for a rubber game.

Today’s game starts at noon because it’s the first of two camp days at Citi Field, and the Mets will try to give the kids a victory.

R.A. Dickey vs. St. Louis (career)
0-1, 30.38 ERA, 2.2 IP, 10 hits, 4 BB, 0 SO

Blake Hawksworth vs. New York (career)
0-0, 0.00 ERA, 6.2 IP, 7 hits, 2 BB, 5 SO

2010 season series (New York vs. St. Louis)

April 16: St. Louis 4, New York 3
April 17: New York 2, St. Louis 1 (20)
April 18: St. Louis 5, New York 3

July 27: New York 8, St. Louis 2
July 28: St. Louis 8, New York 7 (13)

Cardinals lead series 3-2

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