About 100 miles away from New York and Philadelphia, there is a grudge between the scripted Mets logo and the star spangled Phillies. They just don't mix.
In 2006, New York won the season series 11-7 and finished 12 games ahead of the second place Phillies. This was the first time both teams we're legitimate contenders until the latter part of the season.
The Mets went all the way to the National League Championship Series but lost to the eventual World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Little did the Mets know that the game ending 12-6 curveball from closer Adam Wainwright was the last sniff of the postseason they would get for the next two years.
The Phillies were chasing the Wild Card, but eventually lost by three games to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The notorious Philadelphia theme remained constant. "There's always next year."
Well. next year came in 2007.
Now Ryan Howard was fresh off his MVP year where he hit .313, 58 home runs, and 149 RBIs. This was the most home runs since Barry Bonds hit his record setting 73.
Second baseman Chase Utley was coming into his own, establishing himself as one of the best second basemen in the game.
The table was set for the Phillies to make a run for the Pennant.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins really felt great about his team going into the 2007 campaign. He felt they had enough pitching and offense to open some eyes around the National League. In fact, he was so confident that he said that the Phillies were "the team to beat."
The New York media ate it up.
Everyone between the 100 mile distance was estatic to hear such a proposition. The Phillies hadn't made the playoffs in 13 years at that time. Rollins was calling out a team that was the National League's best club with an astonishing 97 wins.
Bad enough, the Phillies went 11-14 in the first month of the season making Rollins and the Phillies the laughing stock early in the season. But you know what they say,
"It's a long season."
Starting at the top, Jose Reyes was becoming one of the most dynamic players in the game. Getting hits, stealing bases, and dragging bunts. He set the table for a potent middle of the lineup which included David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and the ageless Carlos Delgado.
For yet another year the Phillies had their eyes on the Wild Card. By the All-Star break they were 44-44, 4.5 games back of the division leading Mets. It seemed unlikely.
After the All-Star break, the Phillies really turned it on. They swept the Mets twice, and one sweep was a four game set. In that quad set, the Phillies had three comeback wins off a very anemic bullpen that included Scott Schoeneweis, Pedro Feliciano, and of course Billy Wagner. The Mets bullpen's weakness would cost them many pivotal games down the stretch.
The Mets had a seven game lead with 17 games to play. The Mets faltered. They started losing games consecutively while the Phillies were on a hot streak—both teams were going in opposite directions.
Then on the very last day of the season, the Mets were losing to the Florida Marlins 7-0 before the Phillies-Nationals game even started. The Phils knew they could control their own destiny, for the first time all year.
The Phillies would eventually beat the Nationals between Jamie Moyer and closer Brett Myers to win the National League East.
They would later be swept by the record setting, white-hot Colorado Rockies in three games.
Just getting a taste for meaningful games in South Philadelphia, the Phightin's were coming into their own.
In 2008, Carlos Beltran took a page out of Rollins' book and said the Mets we're the "team to beat" after acquiring former Cy Young and strikeout king Johan Santana.
Just like 2007, the Mets had early success, especially Johan Santana. Coming from the superior American League, Santana was shutting teams down one by one including the left-handed heavy Philadelphia Phillies.
During the September stretch run, the Mets and Phillies exchanged first place three times. However the Phillies would win the National League East on September 27th to win their second consecutive division title.
From there, any Major League Baseball fan knows what happens next.
Behind the brilliant pitching of Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge and the timely hitting by Rollins, Shane Victorino, Utley, Howard, Jayson Werth, Pat Burrell, Carlos Ruiz, and of course Matt Stairs, the Phillies won their second World Championship while the Mets watched.
A victory for the team, the city, and especially the fans who have endured so much.
As the unwritten 2009 season unfolds, one constant remains the same. The Phillies have not folded under high pressure situations.
So, Philadelphia would like to pass off a new motto for the New York Metropolitans.
"There's always next year."
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