The “what could have been” series begins tonight, with a pair of 2021 National League All-Stars taking the mound, Zack Wheeler for the Phillies and Taijuan Walker for the Mets.
The goal for the next three games? Each team wants to avoid adding to their long list of “How the hell did we lose that game?” debacles in 2021 and say, “Hey, maybe we can still save something!” grant. However, with just two and a half weeks left in the regular season, it’s probably more of a bragging rights battle than being able to say, “At least those guys were eliminated before us.”
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The Phillies are 2 1/2 behind the second wild card, with the Reds between them and the ticket to October, and three games in the NL East behind the Braves. The Mets are within five and five and a half, respectively. Those may not seem like insurmountable deficits, if you help them a little with some losses from the teams ahead. After all, the Cardinals had only 3 1/2 games in the wild-card standings, beating both the Reds and the Padres in an eight-game stretch. The Blue Jays just won 4 1/2 games in the AL wild-card standings in contests on Sept. 15.
Here’s the information that’s likely relevant, though: The Mets are three games under .500 on the season, 11 under .500 in the second half, and the Phillies are just two games away on the year, but only 6-8 September. Honestly, it’s a miracle they’re still in the October conversation. In 2015, for example, the Diamondbacks finished four games behind .500 (one worse than the Mets now) and finished 13 games out of the division and 18 games out of a wild-card spot.
But with all the mediocrity in the National League, after the excellent Giants, Brewers and Dodgers, of course, the opportunity still exists. There’s just not much evidence to support the hope of Mets or Phillies fans that their favorite squad has a strong push toward the finish left in the tank. However, what there is much of on both sides is regret.
For both teams, the season is full of losses and inexplicable losses. We are not going to compile a complete list, who needs all that negativity? – but we’ll give you a little snapshot, to give you an idea if you haven’t been paying much attention.
The Mets started in a very similar way to the Mets. Ace Jacob deGrom made five starts in April, allowing just two earned runs and compiling a 0.51 ERA, but the Mets somehow lost three – THREE !!! – of those five games. At the season opener, the club had a 2-0 lead when deGrom came out, but ended up losing 5-3. In the other two, they were excluded.
On July 7, Tylor Megill pitched six scoreless innings at Pittsburgh, and the Mets held a 6-0 lead before the eighth. The Pirates scored five in the eighth and won the game on a grand slam start in the ninth. Oh, and this most recent series, at home against the Cardinals, one of the teams chasing in the wild-card race, will stay put. The Mets were coming off an emotional series win against the Yankees, marked by Francisco Lindor’s three-homer game, when they were swept by St. Louis, outscored 25-10 in all three games.
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Phumbles of the Philis
You practically have to start with the 32 missed saves, the worst in MLB, right? Even if you bring it down to the MLB average of 22 missed saves, those 10 wins that should have been push them well ahead of Atlanta in the NL East run. The Braves, by the way, have lost 23 saves on the season.
There are two second-half series in particular that Phillies fans are still shaking their heads about. The first was in Arizona, August 17-19, against a Diamondbacks team that has the worst record, and the worst ERA, in the National League. The Phillies, however, scored just six runs, total, and were swept. And a recent home series against the Rockies was just as brutal. Aside from that four-game set, the Rockies are just 20-50 on the road this season, but they managed to win three of the four games in Philadelphia. The first was especially tough; the Phillies held a 2-1 lead with two outs in the top of the ninth inning and closer Ian Kennedy was ahead of Ryan McMahon, 0-2.
McMahon, however, homered to put the Rockies ahead 3-2, and Sam Hilliard followed up with a solo home run to give Colorado a two-run lead in a game they would win 4-3.
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So yeah, a lot of regret in New York and Philadelphia.
For the Mets, they practically have to sweep the Phillies to have any outside hope of reaching October. The Phillies, with their best starters lined up for this series and Bryce Harper making an MVP charge, should at least be in the picture as long as they aren’t swept. Let’s see what happens.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.