The Mets and Phillies have picked up right where they left off in 2010.  Philadelphia and New York halved their 18 meetings a season ago, and they've opened this year by splitting the first two head-to-head battles of 2011.

Thursday's rubber game of a three-game set strongly favors the Philadelphia Phillies, however.

Openers at the MLB betting window were as high -240 on the Phils and their ace Roy Halladay.  Dog catchers showed up early to grab the Mets and Jonathon Niese in the mid-afternoon start (3:05 PM), driving Philly's chalk down to -200 and lower.

The total was set at 7.5, the juice mixed O/U at various offshore sportsbooks.

Both teams find themselves in familiar territory as far as the MLB odds are concerned.  Thursday's battle marks the sixth time in six games the Mets have been road dogs this season, with Philly riding home chalk for a sixth time in the 2011 season.  It has worked to advantage of Mets backers so far.

New York pasted a 7-1 loss on Philly in Tuesday's series opener as a +170 underdog before suffering a 10-7 loss in Game 2 on Wednesday getting +130 on the MLB moneyline.  Bettors on the Mets this season are already up a cool two units and change despite the modest 3-2 record.

Betting the dog in this series a year ago also left a black mark on the ledger.  More times than not, that meant placing a wager on the Mets who drew the chalk line just twice in 18 of the games played between the two clubs in 2010.  New York's 9-9 split vs. the Phils produced a return of 2.1 units.

Four times that a dog play on the Mets didn't work came when facing Halladay.  Burdened with odds ranging from -195 to -220 in his four starts vs. the Mets, Doc won all four, covering the run line three of the four games while Philly outscored New York 28-9 in the matchups.

Halladay struck out 28 Mets hitters while walking just two in those games.  Going back to his days with the Blue Jays, Halladay is 6-2 in eight career starts versus the New York Mets.

Niese is facing a tall task to deliver a win in this game, and that's not a reference to Halladay's 6-6 height.  He'll need to pitch at least as well as he did in the Mets' second game of the season, a 6-4 New York win in 10 innings at Florida.  Niese didn't decision, but tossed seven strong innings while allowing just two runs on four hits.

The lefthander faced the Phils three times in 2010, winning one, losing another and picking up a no-decision in the third which the Mets lost.  He worked seven innings in each outing, allowing just five earned runs in all.  Two of the assignments were at Citizens Bank Park where he pitched 14 frames and allowed just two earned runs.

Philadelphia heads out following this game for its first road trip this season, a six-game trek that will first stop in Atlanta for the weekend followed by three in Washington DC.

The Mets will return to the Big Apple for their first home action of the year, starting with the Nationals on Friday who will be trailed into Queens by the Rockies for a four-game set beginning next Monday.