With the Phils winning the first three games of the four game series against the Mets, today's last game is huge. If the Phils win, they're only 2 games out. Contrast that with a Mets sweep which would have put the Phils 10 games out of first in the NL East, and we can see that the team has come up BIG over the past few days.
As I wait for today's 1pm game to start, my mind drifts back to another big Mets-coming-to-Philadelphia series. This one took place in September 1986. The stakes weren't as high for the Phillies, but they were for the Mets, and it was just as exciting to be a Phillies fan for that weekend.
The Mets came to Philadelphia on September 12, 1986, with a 22 game lead in the NL East. There were 23 games to go in the season, so you do the math: this was the weekend for the Mets to clinch the NL East and their first post-season appearance since 1973. They had good reason to think this would be the weekend, as they needed just one win and the Phillies had lost 6 of their last 8, including just having been swept by the woeful Cubs.
Veterans Stadium was hopping for all three games, as Mets fans wanting to witness history swarmed the stadium in droves. I wouldn't be surprised if over 50% of the fans in the seats were blue and gold supporters. The first game featured Doc Gooden against Bruce Ruffin. It sounds like a lop-sided match in retrospect, but believe it or not, Ruffin, in his rookie year, actually had a better ERA than Gooden (2.46 v. 2.84). Ruffin shut out the Mets through six and got offensive support from Mike Schmidt's 35th home run of the year (on his way to his third MVP award) and a 4-for-4 outing from Von Hayes. The Mets made it interesting with three runs off Ruffin in the seventh, but Steve Bedrosian shut down the Mets by notching a two inning save. Luis Aguayo (remember him?) gave the Phils some comfort room with a solo homer in the eighth. Final score was 6-3.
Saturday's game gave the Mets another opportunity to clinch, and the Mets fans were rowdy with anticipation. I was at this game, and there were fights in the stands all night long, including one in the row behind me. The game had to be interrupted because Mets fans (of course it was the Mets fans and not the Phils fans!) had thrown 700-level seats onto the field in the middle of the game. The atmosphere was electric.
The actual game didn't start well for the Phils, as Mike Maddux, another in the long line of wrong-brothers the Phils have had, let up 3 runs in the first without getting an out. He was replaced by the combination of Tom Hume, Charles (don't call me Charlie!) Hudson, Dan Schatzeder, and Bedrosian, who proceeded to shut down the Mets, giving up only 2 more runs the rest of the game. The Phils' offense didn't give up and battled back to score 2 runs in the fourth, sixth, and seventh innings, thanks to the hitting of Schmidt, Hayes, and catcher Ronn Reynolds. Bedrock notched another two inning save, albeit with a shaky 8th inning. The Phils won again, this time 6-5.
On the verge of being swept, the Mets sent big man Sid Fernandez to the mound Sunday against the Phils' Kevin Gross. Hayes and Schmidt came up big again, but the star of the game was Gross. He shut out the Mets' potent offense and contributed 2 RBI of his own for the Phils. Another Phils win, their third in a row scoring 6 runs, 6-0.
The Mets would go on to clinch two days later, against the Cardinals, and as we all know, eventually to win one of the most memorable World Series ever. The Phillies didn't have any such glory, as they finished in second place, 21.5 games out.
But for three days, the Phillies made a stand. They entertained their fans, they frustrated the Mets fans who had invaded Philadelphia, and they lived out the now-cliche "not in my house."
Today's game is more important for the Phillies. With a win, the NL East is back to having a race. The Phils would be 2 games out with 29 to go (when just three days ago there was a very real possibility we would be looking at 10 games back with 29 to go). It's time for another big-time sweep against the Mets at home.