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Double tap: Phillies vs. Mets series

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The Phillies thought they left the Mets for dead once already this season. It’s time to finish the job.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets
Edwin Diaz has not been reliable against the Phillies
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

At the All-Star break, the Mets appeared to be buried in the standings. But at some point in the second half, a strange thing happened: They began to win a lot of games. They won so many games that they actually passed the Phillies in the standings for a brief time.

However, the Mets are once again reeling, and the Phillies have a chance to essentially kill off their last hopes of contention.

New York Mets

Record: 67-66, Fourth place in National League East

The last time they met

The Phillies closed out the first half by winning two out of three games at CitiField. That left the Mets ten games under .500 and seven games behind the Phillies in the NL East.

Back from the dead

The Mets should have been all but written off from contention at that point. But a few weeks later, if the Phillies looked behind them in the standings, they might have felt a little like Clark Griswold at 1:03 of this clip:

So much for that?

Whatever voodoo magic the Mets used to propel themselves back to edge of playoff contention might have worn off. They’ve lost six straight games, and there have been grumbles that the team should have been aggressive sellers at the trade deadline.

The rookie wall

People have declared Pete Alonso to be the greatest power hitter to enter the league since Babe Ruth. I assume that must be true because the New York media would NEVER over-hype a young player. (Anyone heard from Matt Harvey lately?) Perhaps we should hit the brakes a bit, because he’s batting just .167 over the past week.

The Mets really can’t afford to have Alonso go into a slump. Even with his 42 home runs, the Mets’ total of 188 is just eighth best in the NL. If Alonso stops hitting, they may really struggle to score runs.

A total Panik move

With second baseman Robinson Cano on the Injured List, the Mets signed Joe Panik to help compensate for his absence. And he actually started out well.

Since that hot start, he’s shown everyone just why he was available to be picked up. Over the past two weeks, Panik has an OPS of .609.

Scooting along

To Panik’s credit, he hasn’t been the worst hitter on the team lately. Todd Frazier has an on-base percentage of .238 during the past month with just two home runs. Not exactly how the pending free agent wants to head into the offseason.

On the bright side, he really likes his scooter!

The ever-so-ordinary Mets rotation

The Phillies will not face Jacob deGrom in this series, and that’s a huge break for them. deGrom is having another strong season - albeit another strong season in which he hasn’t won a lot of games. The Phillies will also not face Noah Syndergaard, a pitcher whom they’ve had a lot of success against the past two years. Instead, they’ll face the middling group of Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, and Marcus Stroman.

Wheeler has already made four starts against the Phillies this season. The first three went fairly well for him - although the Mets lost two of them - but the most recent did not. The Phillies jumped all over him for four runs in the first inning and cruised to victory.

Steven Matz is probably not thrilled to be making another start at Citizens Bank Park. In his two starts there this season, he’s given up 15 runs in just 4.1 innings. He’s probably going to improve over that performance, only because it would be almost impossible not to. That doesn’t mean the Phillies shouldn’t be able to knock him around again.

Marcus Stroman was the Mets’ big mid-season acquisition, but they might have been better off just keeping Jason Vargas.

No Buenos Diaz

Steven Matz isn’t the only notable Mets pitcher to struggle against the Phillies this season. Closer Edwin Diaz has suffered two losses against them, and his ERA in four appearances is an unsightly 17.36. In other words, even if the Mets are leading, you might want to stay until the end.

Commercials!

At this point in the season, if you’re a regular viewer of Phillies broadcasts, you’ve seen most of the accompanying commercials enough times to have them permanently engraved in your memory. So I thought I’d carve out some time in these series previews to write about them. (If any Mets fans reading this are upset because I’m discussing this instead of say, Michael Conforto, you probably should have bailed out a while ago.)

The first commercial I want to discuss is the latest offering from the Pennsylvania Lottery featuring Gus, the self-proclaimed second most famous groundhog in Pennsylvania.

Many famous television shows over the years have gotten great mileage out of the well-tested “will they/won’t they” formula. You know how it works: The viewers are kept in suspense as to whether or not two of the characters will become a couple. It seems like the Pennsylvania Lottery has decided to take a similar approach here. Move over Ross and Rachel, here comes Gus and Nicki!

I mean, whoa. You could cut the tension between those two with a knife. And they do seem good for each other considering they both apparently like making awful puns about ice cream.

I just hope that their relationship eventually has more of a basis than just a shared love of desserts. Apparently eating too much ice cream can be very bad for a groundhog’s health, so maybe they’d better plan their next date at a healthier restaurant.

The chemistry between the two leads earns this commercial a high grade. But I will have to dock it a point because it feels slightly derivative of last year’s Verizon commercial where the guy from Silicon Valley made a similar ice cream pun.

Grade: 4 stars (out of 5)

Phlashback of ineptitude: Ruben Tejada

Ruben Tejada spent several seasons getting regular at bats as the Mets’ shortstop, but it isn’t entirely clear why. He wasn’t an amazing defender, and he certainly wasn’t a good hitter.

The most memorable thing he ever did was get his leg broken by Chase Utley. (You know how Phillies fans love Chase Utley? Feelings towards him are considerably cooler in New York.)

The Mets chose to bring him back for another run this season. Surprisingly, a player who hasn’t been especially good throughout his entire career continued to be not especially good.

He was eventually designated for assignment, and has apparently placed a curse on the team.

Prediction

The Phillies don’t always look good, but when these teams have played each other this season, the Mets have consistently looked worse. The Phillies will take two of three, and then we can all once again safely point and laugh at the Mets.