There aren’t many rivalries in baseball bigger than that between the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies.

Ever since the Phillies stunned the Mets by overcoming a seven-game deficit to win the division in ’07, there has been a growing feud between the two squads.

Tuesday marks the first time the two will meet in 2011, as a three-game series will commence at Citizens Bank Park. The Mets are trying to prove that, with the changes they made and the team that they have, they are good enough to take on the mighty Phills.

But the Phillies have won the division four consecutive seasons, and have one of the most intimidating pitching staffs since the ’71 Orioles.

This three-game series will be a quick test for the Mets’ pitching staff, who are without ace Johan Santana. Newcomer Chris Young will get thrown into the fire right out of the gate, as he will start the first game of the series. In five career starts against Philadelphia, Young has a 2-2 record with a 4.50 ERA.

He will be opposed by left-hander Cole Hamels. The Mets have fared well against the workhorse, leaving him with a 2-8 record over 13 career starts. But Hamels is coming off a career-year, when he struck out more than 200 batters for the first time in 2010.

Game two of the series will feature Mets’ Opening Day starter Mike Pelfrey matching up against the Phillies’ No. 5 starter, Joe Blanton.

Pelfrey struggled in his first career Opening Day start, surrendering five runs in only 4 1/3 innings against the Florida Marlins. Blanton is making his first start of the new campaign.

Jonathan Niese and reigning Cy Young award winner Roy Halladay will square off in the series finale on Thursday. Halladay, who went 4-0 against the Mets in 2010, was his typical self against the Astros on Thursday. He allowed one run over six innings of work picking up a no-decision.

Niese looked sharp in his first start of the season, tossing seven innings and allowing only two earned runs against the Marlins on Saturday.

The Mets may be finding the Phillies at their worst these next three games. The Phillies are without star second baseman Chase Utley and closer Brad Lidge.

Both are on the disabled list, with no exact return date scheduled. The Mets will still have their hands full with the rest of the Phillies’ juggernaut lineup and rotation.

The two teams finished at 9-9 against each other in 2010.

So as dominating a team as the Philles were, and as bad of a team that the Mets were, when going up against one another, they were pretty much evenly matched.

If the Mets can capitalize on the short-handed Phills, it could give them the momentum they need to get the 2011 season off to a roaring start.

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