The New York Mets. The Philadelphia Phillies. As recently as four years ago, both teams were competing for the top spot in the National League East. Now they're both far behind the first place Nationals and the second place Braves, just barely ahead of Ozzie Guillen and his Merry Marlins, who are 20,000 leagues under the East.
The Mets and Phillies will be meeting this week in a three-game series beginning tonight at Citizens Bank Park in a series that will be a battle for third place in the division. Battle for third place? With the way these two teams have played in 2012, it's more like a battle for "turd" place.
The Mets started off well this year. At the one-third point of the season, they were a season-high eight games over .500. As late as July 7, they were 9½ games ahead of the then-last place Phillies in the NL East. But since then, the Mets have gone 13-30 while the Phillies are 24-18. After spending the majority of the season chasing the Mets, Philadelphia is now two games ahead of New York.
The Phillies have passed the Mets despite:
- Trading Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, Jim Thome, Joe Blanton and Chad Qualls in an in-season cost-cutting measure (otherwise known as raising the white flag).
- Chase Utley and Ryan Howard missing a combined 165 games, then both hitting under .250 in the games they have participated in.
- Jimmy Rollins being the only regular to play just about every day, but hitting under .250 and barely reaching base at a .300 clip.
- A horrible bullpen with an ERA of 4.38, a WHIP of 1.32, and a Bastardo.
- Cliff Lee winning three more games than Cliff Clavin at a salary that's far more than that of your average postal worker (although Mr. Clavin could probably tell you the origin of Mr. Lee's middle name of Phifer).
With that combination of misfortune and spending a fortune on misses, the Phillies should be buried in the depths of the division. Yet not only are they in the middle of the division, they're ahead of the Mets, who have the league's top winner and strikeout leader in R.A. Dickey, two corner infielders that have combined for 41 HR and 146 RBI, and a year-long penchant for scoring runs with two outs (239 two-out runs, as opposed to 295 in all other situations).
Despite the Mets' recent woes, they have defeated the Phillies eight times in twelve head-to-head matchups this season, easily their best record against any NL East opponent. (The Mets are a combined 14-22 against the other three teams in the division, not winning more than five games against any of them.) They need to continue playing well against the Phillies this week to reclaim third place.
Games between the Mets and Phillies used to have so much riding on them. Now with the two teams playing sub-.500 ball, the only thing they're riding out is the schedule. It's a battle for third place in the city of Brotherly Love. Hope it's not a stinker.