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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Phillies-Mets -- One for the Ages

Great game at Citizens Bank Park last night (even if the Phillies' own broadcaster, Tom McCarthy, referred to the place as Shea Stadium in the top of the 13th inning, owing, in part, to the fact that McCarthy was the Mets' broadcaster last season and even if ESPN's Steve Levy referred to the place as the Vet in a promo to Sports Center while dissing the City of Brotherly Love), where the Phillies came from behind, erasing a 7-0 deficit to beat the bullpen-challenged Mets 8-7 in 13 innings in a classic.

The Phillies' 'pen shut out the Mets in the final 9 innings of the game, holding them to 4-28 during that span. The Mets' 'pen, in contrast, didn't fare so well, although starter Pedro Martinez contributed to the Mets' defeat by allowing a leadoff double in the fifth to mop-up reliever Clay Condrey (whose seasonal at-bats are proportional to his mound appearances). Aaron Heilman bent but did not break, but other Mets' relievers didn't fare so well.

Luis Ayala blew a save and allowed the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, on a two-out single to Jayson Werth and then a pinch double by Eric Bruntlett, the last Phillies' position player left on the bench. The Mets' pen (read: Heilman) struggled in the extra innings, and then the last Mets' reliever, Scott Schoenweis, gave up a no-out triple to the Flyin' Hawaiian, Shane Victorino, in the top of the 13th. The gongs from the "Rocky" song "Go the Distance" started to sound, at least eliptically, and about ten minutes later 36 year-old Chris Coste got his first walk-off hit and ended it. 8-7, the home team, which is now half a game up on the Mets in the NL East.

Good news for the Mets' tonite: their ace, Johan Santana, is on the mound.

As for the Phillies, their inconsistent bats support the contention that if the Phillies were to have hit this year the way they did last year, they'd probably be up 7 or 8 games on the Mets. Then again, if you had the same bats and pitching for the whole year, they'd probably be where they are today.

Almost tied.

The question for the Mets will be whether they get enough pitching to enable them to win the NL East.

The question for the Phillies, interestingly enough, will be whether they get enough hitting (consistently) to win the division.

Look back a year ago, and the positions were probably reversed, but the once-touted Mets' bullpen imploded down the stretch, while the once-questioned Phillies' relief corps stood tall enough to help enable the team's outstanding hitting to carry the day.

Yes, it was only one game, and you'll remember that last year after the Phillies did major damage on the Mets' at Citizens' Bank Park in late August, the Mets went on a tear on a road trip, winning their next 9 or so games before collapsing in September. And, to be quite frank, the Mets should be favored to win tonight's game. Kyle Kendrick is a gamer, but he had to warm up last night, and, his ERA is two points higher than Johan Santana's. That's right. Two points, not two tenths.

So what does this all mean? The last time I checked, this game counts the same as each and every one of the other thirteen that the Mets have played against the Phillies this year. The Mets are 9-5 in those games. So, they still have the Phillies' number, and, again, while the Mets came up empty in the final nine innings against the Phillies last night, the core of the Phillies' lineup -- Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell -- fared poorly in extra innings (Utley might as well ask for a pinch hitter when facing the Mets' Pedro Feliciano, he has struck out half the times he's faced Feliciano).

Then again, the Mets' bullpen blew its 22nd lead this year. Teams draw on successes, and failures can fester. In a 162-game season that still has over a month to go, there is plenty of time for both teams to forget this game or let it define the rest of the way.

Whatever the case, if you're a Phillies' fan, it was a great game to watch into the wee hours last night.


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