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Mets-Phillies: Did that just happen?

The three-game series between the Mets and Phillies that concluded Thursday night in Queens produced perhaps the most unfathomable outcome: a three-game sweep by the Mets over the two-time defending NL champs, with all three wins coming via shutout.

For the Phillies, who theoretically own the league's best offense (it led the NL in runs in 2009), that's three straight shutouts -- and four in their last five games -- with only a three-run, garbage-time ninth inning during a blowout loss at Boston on Sunday preventing this from being a five-game scorless schneid.

What's going on here? Well, it's worth noting the Phillies are 6-8 and have scored one or fewer runs in six times since bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer had his binoculars confiscated. But even I'm not cynical enough to suggest that's behind the Phillies' hitting woes. Just two weeks ago, in the first series after the sign-stealing flap, they scored 23 runs during a three-game sweep of the Brewers in Milwaukee.

More likely, the Phillies' bats have hit a slump at the exact moment they have faced a quirky set of pitchers, making it difficult to pull out of it. These five straight losses have come against (in order): a resurgent kinda-sorta ace featuring his best fastball in years (Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka); a pair of knuckleballers (Boston's Tim Wakefield and New York's R.A. Dickey); a funky Japanese lefty who was starting against them for the first time (New York's Hisanori Takahashi); and a young flamethrower on the verge of acehood (New York's Mike Pelfrey).

I still like the Phillies in the NL East, simply because Ryan Howard, Chase Utley & Co. are too good to keep hitting like this. They were the division's best team at the start of the season, and one fluky stretch of offensive futility isn't enough to change that.

But the thing that has changed in recent weeks is the fact the Mets must now be seen as legitimate contenders. Before sweeping the Phillies, they won two of three from the Yankees -- that's a 5-1 stretch against the two World Series teams from last season. Jason Bay is finally hitting. Jose Reyes is back to his old self. And Pelfrey may be as good a No. 2 starter (really, he's an ersatz No. 1) as anyone in the league.

Three games separates first place from last in the NL East standings this morning. This is going to be fun.

By Dave Sheinin  |  May 28, 2010; 8:38 AM ET
 
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Comments

As many people have said, this is looking a lot like 2005. Granted, we're not in first place right now (and might never be) but currently the tie for last place in our division is between .500 teams. It is possible that this could hold the rest of the way. How would we feel about finishing in 4th or 5th in the NL East but with a 81-81 record? Is it a sign that the division is good (everyone finishes at least .500) or bad (no one really stands out and everyone just beats up on each other)?

Posted by: LurkerNowPoster | May 28, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

That's pretty funny that they'd slump right after the binoculars were taken. What does he have binoculars for anyway? Weird. Maybe he's checking out chicks or something. You're right though, if they run up against a pitcher they're not familiar with, or someone who's hot, it happens all the time. It's all good though, gives the Nats fans the illusion of hope this year, even though it'll be a huge struggle to stay at .500 from here on out. Too many holes. You know, hitting struggles from CF and RF, relying on a 38 yr. old catcher to stay healthy, starters that don't go far enough and tax the bullpen, etc. etc. Thank goodness for Riggleman - looks like he's evolved quite a bit since his mediocre stints years ago. He's gotten the team's attention, and the guys are accepting their roles at least. I still think they miss Dukes in the middle of the lineup. Badly.

Posted by: Brue | May 28, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

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