New York Mets Still Trying to Catch the Philadelphia Phillies

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Despite the heated rivalry that developed with the Atlanta Braves in the late 1990s, the New York Mets' biggest rival is the Philadelphia Phillies. Geographically, they're separated only by a quick trip down the New Jersey Turnpike. On the field, however, is another story.

A few days ago, after Matt Harvey shut down the Phillies while the Mets beat up on Roy Halladay, I started to wonder whether the Mets could overtake the Phillies and establish themselves as the third best team in the National League East. The Phillies are five years removed from their World Series victory and two years removed from their last playoff appearance. Their ace, Halladay, has gotten hit hard in his first two starts this year. For the Mets, Harvey has been impressive in his first two starts.

Only something happened the past two nights on the way to third place: The Phillies came to life and the Mets went to sleep. In other words, the Phillies confirmed that, at the moment, they're still better than the Mets, even if the 24-year-old Harvey outdueled the veteran Halladay the other night.

On Tuesday, Dillon Gee lasted three innings, gave up seven runs, and the Mets lost 8-3. Last night, Jeremy Hefner lasted three innings, gave up five runs, and the Mets lost 7-3.

Sure, John Buck hit another home run (his fifth) and Lucas Duda went deep twice, but in the series finale the starting pitcher faltered, the Mets left seven men on base, and most glaringly, they forgot how to run the bases. As a result, the Mets left Citizens Bank Park with a 5-4 record. Monday's win over Halladay is a distant memory.

All of a sudden, the Phillies remembered how to win games. Strong pitching from Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick don't erase the concerns about Halladay, but at 4-5, the Phillies are on their way to Miami where the Marlins are 1-8 and drawing no one (other than opening day) in their new ballpark.

Meanwhile, the Mets will head to frigid Minnesota to take on the Twins. They'll be counting on Jonathon Niese and Harvey, who will pitch the first two games of the series, to get them back on track. Who knows: Maybe Ike Davis, now 4-for-30 at the plate to start the season, might even get things going. But it starts with pitching.

The starting pitching was supposed to be the Mets' strength this year. The past two nights in Philadelphia exposed some holes at the bottom of the rotation.

We learned one more thing: At least for now, the Phillies still hold the upper hand in the rivalry.

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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