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.
May 28, 2010; 8:38 AM ET
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