COMMENTARY | Say what you want about the Philadelphia Phillies -- they may indeed be on the decline -- but one thing is for sure: For a good period of time -- going on seven years now -- the New York Mets have been chasing the Phillies, but have been unable to catch up with their division rival.
It's true that the Phillies are no longer the feared team that they were a few years back. They've been slipping every year since they won the World Series in 2008. Last season they didn't make the playoffs and this year it looks like they're the third best team in the National League East.
But the Mets have been down since Carlos Beltran struck out looking to end the 2006 National League Championship Series. What followed was a nightmare for the Mets, and a dream come true for the Phillies.
Heading into the 2007 season, Mets fans were enraged when Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said that Philadelphia was the team to beat in the NL East. He ended up being right. Mets fans were unsettled a couple of years later when Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels called the Mets "choke artists." While I don't think that needed to be said, in 2007 and 2008, the Mets coughed up September leads and missed the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Phillies won five straight division titles and got to the World Series twice. They became a model franchise and made October baseball an annual tradition. The Mets became irrelevant.
In 2013, the Phillies are no longer a powerhouse team. They have holes, but you wouldn't know it by the way they've played the past two games at Citi Field. Or maybe the Mets just aren't that good.
On Friday night, Kyle Kendrick was unhittable. He shut out the Mets and limited them to three hits on the night. Ryan Howard's three-run home run in the sixth inning was the biggest hit of the game.
Yesterday, Philadelphia scored five times in the fifth inning and cruised to a 9-4 win. Domonic Brown's three-run homer off reliever Robert Carson broke the game open.
Carson was bad and so is the Mets' bullpen. After Saturday's game, the bullpen's earned run average is 5.28, the worst in baseball. Last year, the Mets' bullpen finished with the second-worst ERA in baseball.
There are concerns everywhere -- from starting pitching, to finding a leadoff hitter, to the Mets' bats going cold on this homestand, to the struggles out in the bullpen. The Mets have lost three straight and four out of their last five. They've fallen two games under .500 for the first time this season.
Meanwhile, they're getting pounded by the Phillies. In five games against Philadelphia this year, the Mets are 1-4 and have been outscored 30-17.
Today, they face Hamels and the Mets will send Jonathon Niese to the mound for the first time since he was knocked out of Tuesday's game in the third inning after getting hit in the leg on a comebacker.
New York is 10-12 while Philadelphia is 11-14. A win today and the Phillies move past the Mets in the standings.
Really, though, the Phillies have been ahead for quite some time.
Charles Costello has followed the Mets closely since the rookie years of Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). He was a beat reporter assigned to cover the Mets during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
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