The Race in the NL East

Gabe PodairContributor ISeptember 10, 2008

Well, its that time of year again - crunch time. When everything counts and there is no room for mistakes or losses. That’s exactly how many Major League Baseball teams feel right now. Even though the regular season is coming to an end, many teams are still in contention for a playoff birth.

In the East, it seems like the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets are re-enacting the collapse of last year, only the tables have turned this time. Last week, the Mets lost two out of three games to the Phillies. It seemed as though the Mets and their fans were in for another collapse similar to last years, but they were mistaken, much to their collective relief. 

What was significant about the Phillies-Mets series was not that the Phillies won two out of three from the Mets and cut the division lead to one game. It was the way the Mets came back from two terribly played games and performed amazingly in the Sunday night finale. The Mets ran out on that field and played their hearts out. They clearly were trying to avoid the pain and agony of last years heartbreaking season finish.

Writers, fans, players and coaches alike all knew even before the game started that the game was going to be a well-played, hard fought game because of the pitching match up between Johan Santana and Cole Hamels. Santana, who is sixth in strike outs in the National League and third in ERA, started out the season slow with sub-par performances but has picked up his game and started to pitch like the ace the Mets expected. Hamels’ statistics are very similar to those of Santana. He is fifth in strikeouts in the National League with a 180 average and with a 3.12 ERA he ranks seventh among National League pitchers. Given these numbers, everyone knew this would be a memorable match up and neither team would win without a fight.

Right from the start, both the Mets and Phillies started their attacks, with the Phillies scoring one run in the first inning and the Mets scoring three in the bottom of the same inning. The game proceeded to go back and forth from there, and included an outstanding performance by Johan Santana and Carlos Delgado, who hit two monster home runs.  Thanks to Delgado, the Mets were able to leave the series on top 6-3.

This series was not only important because the Mets and Phillies are both vying for the same playoff spot,  but also because this was the last time both teams would meet each other in the regular season. If the Mets had lost the last game and had been swept by the Phillies, the Phillies would have been tied for first place and the outcome of the season might have been tremendously altered.