NL East Division Battle: Phils in First, Marlins Fighting, Others Fading

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NL East Division Battle: Phils in First, Marlins Fighting, Others Fading
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

At the exact moment I type this, the Philadelphia Phillies lead the National League East by two games.

The second place team is, surprisingly, the Florida Marlins, who began the season 11-1, only to fade in May and June. Yet, over the last few weeks, the Fish have climbed their way back to second place.

Third place is currently held by the Atlanta Braves, who sit five games back of the Phillies.

And the New York Mets, who are four games under .500, are now 5.5 games behind first place.

The Phillies have held first place longer than any other team in the division this season, while the Marlins, Braves, and Mets have been up and down throughout the standings.

Most surprising halfway through the season in the NL East could be the New York Mets and their inability to win consistently.

This was supposed to be "their year," as sworn by nearly every Mets fan. Yet, all the Mets have shown is that they are the same disappointing team they have been over the past few seasons.

Is July 10 too early to consider the Mets "out of the race"?

With the numerous injuries the Not-So-Amazin's have faced, and the continued lack of chemistry and consistency, can the Mets improve to the point where they can overtake the World Champions?

The defense on the part of the Mets has been anything but spectacular, the everyday lineup they take to the field is young and inexperienced, and frankly is not ripe with talent, and finally, the blame is once again beginning to spread to the manager, Jerry Manuel.

While their most polarizing weakness in 2008, the bullpen, has drastically improved, the Mets' offense has plummeted, and the rotation has been mediocre.

The guarantees from numerous Mets fans that their team would finally lose their choking ways and would relinquish the division are quickly losing steam. How soon can we finally say it's over for the Mets?

Well, because of what occurred in 2007, a seven-game lead with 17 games left can be lost, so I guess it won't be over until the Mets are completely out of it.

But with the way the Phillies are playing compared to how the Mets are playing, and the overall talent being put on the field by both clubs, the Phillies look to have the upper hand.

Aside from the Mets, a surprising Florida Marlins team has crept back into second place, and sits only two games back. Their 10-run inning earlier this evening kept the Fish within two games, showing that they should be a force to be reckoned with.

Yet, can the team who actually sat 1.5 games behind the Phillies at this time last season keep themselves from fading like they did in 2008?

That fact remains to be seen. Yet, the Marlins have one more year of experience and are a bit more talented than they were last season. The Marlins just might be the real deal this season.

In first remains the World Champions, the Philadelphia Phillies.

After going into mid-June with the second best record in all of baseball, the Phils hit a major speed bump that is interleague play, going 6-12 against the American League, including a 1-8 home stand against the AL.

Since their return home and to their regular National League schedule, the Phillies have won six of seven, including a three-game sweep of the Mets. The Phillies most recently took three-out-of-four from the Cincinnati Reds to keep their momentum going.

If it had not been for their most recent slump, the Phillies could be five games or more in front of second place in the division, and possibly seven or eight games above the Mets.

Yet, what happened is not reversible and the Phillies are in first with just a two game lead.

Will the Phillies clinch the division earlier than they have the past two seasons? Will the Mets even come close to the wildcard? Can the Marlins stay in the picture for most of the season? Finally, can the Braves quietly make a run for a playoff spot?

It's all up in the air. There is only one sure thing in this division:

The Washington Nationals have been out the race since Spring Training.

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