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Series with Mets to determine all-important fourth place spot in NL East

It's time to stop pretending this Phillies team can't contend for fourth place.

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Juan Lagares hops off his wall perch in the outfield and screeches like a bird as the game gets underway.
Juan Lagares hops off his wall perch in the outfield and screeches like a bird as the game gets underway.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

If you close your eyes real tight, you can imagine a world where these tweets are about a baseball club in contention, thrilling fans with a late surge, powered by a young bullpen.


Only a single game behind the 62-71 Mets, the Phillies begin a critical three game set in New York with everything hanging in the balance.

We've known for far too long that Citi Field is a dark carnival of tortured souls, but as one CBS Sports columnist suggests, what is it about the place that twists former stars into empty shells?

The columnist gives such a vigorous, thorough tongue bath to Curtis Granderson that you'd think he was talking about Derek Jeter. Granderson's affiliation with LLWS United States champion Jackie Robinson West makes him a standout:

They are appropriately referred to as Jackie Robinson West, and Granderson knows what the name means to the game. He recently wore their jersey while warming up before a game. He's also funded Little League teams from his native Windy City.

Yet he supports a cause without coming off as a crusader. He probably has strong views on Ferguson, global warming, immigration and the rest of the rainbow of topics. But like his game on the field, his persona is smooth, underrated and understated.

Oh, wow; Curtis Granderson knows who Jackie Robinson is and he probably has thoughts on global issues. I used to impress girls on dates by listing all the people I knew and newspaper headlines I'd seen on my walk over. It was a great way to break the ice for the first three hours.

The Mets have had a perfectly choppy August, going 10-15, and thrown that ugly month onto the their season record with the rest of the ugly months. David Wright isn't hitting, with five singles in the last two weeks. His neck is spasming. His shoulder isn't right. The last of his only eight home runs came in early July. Daniel Murphy, one of the team's other contributors, I guess, is suffering from a calf strain, hit the DL, and forced Travis d'Arnaud to hit clean-up as an exasperated Terry Collins faced the media.

"Did you look at the whole lineup?" Collins said. "Did I have a lot of options?"

Things are unarguably bad in Flushing. Some players are returning to their lockers to find that the team has auctioned off their uniforms to make a quick buck. I mean, I know they just had a triple play and all, but why not just send the memorabilia to the Hall of Fame like everybody else, and make their extra cash by selling advertising space in their own tweets with some dignity?

Heavy Hitters

  • Mets lead off hitters: .232/.310/.343
  • The Mets had homered in eight straight games until last night, when they didn't have a RISP until the eighth.
  • The Mets have the second-worst team OPS (.662), SLG (.357), and are tied with the Phillies and Diamondbacks for fifth-worst OBP (.305).

Juan Lagares

You might think that Wright's down year with injuries and Murphy's good year but also with injuries and the Mets' general lack of power and offensive skill would have them relying on unlikely heroes, who don't have the likely heroes to act as a heroic base.

And you would be right. Juan Lagares would be a great story on a playoff team. Instead, he's on the Mets, about to win a Gold Glove and at one point having a higher SLG than Wright and Granderson.

Lucas Duda

Three home runs and six RBI over the last week is good enough that I can stop digging through Mets stats, trying to find a "hot" hitter. They are all but extinct.

Grady Sizemore

If you lump his past week all together, then Grady Sizemore has hit for the cycle, going 4-for-11 in the last seven days, with a single, double, triple, and home run.

Probable Starters

David Buchanan vs. Jacob deGrom

Buchanan could only go five innings in his last start, with two earned runs, two walks, and as many strikeouts as me. He, of course, felt like he was getting yanked early, which led to the first of four instances of a player criticizing Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg, which became the most riveting storyline of the summer. The end result was unthinkable: a quiet conversation in Sandberg's office and an assurance that everything was fine. What a roller coaster!

deGrom's drama has been more related to his actual pitching. He was working on a no-hitter earlier in the month during a game when he and Jake Peavy did intense battle until Peavy exploded slightly and then enormously around the sixth inning. In his last start, deGrom tied for the day's lead in swings-and-misses (16), his co-holder of the title being Justin Verlander.

The July NL Rookie of the Month pitches way, way better at home, with his ERA under 2.00 (1.93), as opposed to his 4.07 ERA away from Citi Field. However, month to month, he's stumbled, with June and August being unkind and filled with rotator cuff soreness as he attempted to maintain his youthful sparkle.

Jerome Williams vs. Bartolo Colon

Williams is the back of the rotation starter the Phillies needed back when the rotation had a back. Now it's just sort of a lifeless void, in which people are stored until they get shipped off for "repurposing." Has anybody heard from Cliff Lee recently? Jonathan Pettibone? They're dead, aren't they. STOP LYING TO US

At least we have Jerome Williams.*

Colon has started 25 games this season for the Mets, and they are going to go ahead and let him start a 26th. Interesting still is that teams poking around Colon may also be poking around Williams, if he keeps his pace up.

*"....the 2014 Phillies DVD Yearbook"

A.J. Burnett vs. Dillon Gee

Burnett broke his streak of five bad starts, during which he stacked up a 7.62 ERA, with a solid, seven-inning performance against the first place Nationals. He may be on the verge of lumping together a couple of good starts now. Or he could throw a bad one again. Through three starts against the Mets this year, Burnett has an 8.50 ERA.


Gee, though, was 0-5 with a 5.71 ERA in the last seven starts before his most recent one, in which he beat the Braves by allowing six hits and two earned runs in 6.2 innings.

With post pitchers using their good starts up for the month, this game might have to be played until September.

Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $18,000 Fantasy Baseball league for tonight's MLB games. It's $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Jump in now. Here's the FanDuel link.