Mets morning briefing 7.3.12

After an off day on Monday, the Mets kick off a six-game homestand to close out the first half of the 2012 regular season on Tuesday night.

The Philadelphia Phillies are in town for three games, followed by the Chicago Cubs for three games over the weekend.

This week is a golden opportunity for the second-place Mets (43-37), considering the Phillies (36-45) and the Cubs (30-49) are both last-place clubs.

It will be Jon Niese (6-3, 3.55) versus Vance Worley (4-4, 2.92) in the opener -- here's a link to Adam Rubin's series preview.

Tuesday's news reports

• The script has definitely been flipped -- it's strange to see the Phillies limp into New York as the underdogs, while the Mets are chasing a playoff spot. In fact, Mets catcher Josh Thole told Mike Puma of the Post that "I think 5-1 is a pretty good goal" for the week.

Read more about the upcoming Mets-Phillies series in the Daily News.

R.A. Dickey has gotten a ton of attention so far this season -- and rightfully so, as the veteran knuckleballer has been brilliant (12-1, 2.15). But the team's most valuable player, and the most valuable player in the major leagues, is David Wright, writes Mike Lupica in the Daily News.

Andres Torres had a wild weekend in Los Angeles -- Andrew Keh of the New York Times calls him "the Mets' most dynamic player," but also "one of their most maddening" -- click here to read more.

• The Mets could use some help in the bullpen. Could Francisco Rodriguez be on his way back to Queens? It's a possibility, writes Ken Davidoff in the Post.

• Niese, the Mets' starter on Tuesday night, had a terrible month of May but has rebounded nicely since then. Read more on Niese's development from Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger.

Bobby Parnell, the Mets' closer while Frank Francisco is on the disabled list, has a special relationship with the New York City Fire Department -- read more about it from Anthony Rieber in Newsday.

TRIVIA: When was the last year the Phillies finished in last place in the National League East?

Monday's answer: The last Met to homer against Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon was Jordany Valdespin. It was his first major-league hit -- a tie-breaking pinch-hit home run in Philadelphia on May 7.