For the next two nights, the Phillies will welcome the Mets to Citizens Bank Park. The in-and-out two-game swing could cause change atop the National League East. It can also put the Phils in an uncompromising situation, 2.5 games in back of the Metropolitans walking into Wrigley Field.
It’s true these are big games. Absolutely. Any time the Mets and Phils hook up, it’s big baseball. But the most important games left this season? Nah. Absolute, drop-dead must-wins? Not even.
Of course, to lose both would really hurt. At the least the Phils should win one of these two games (hopefully tonight’s, as you can’t expect the offense to go nuts off Johan Santana). But if the Phils lose both, it’s not the end of the world.
On Aug. 30 of last season the Phillies pulled to within 2 games of the Mets after a four-game sweep. It was the best, most thrilling baseball Philadelphia had seen in over a decade. Fans were on such a high, but that ended quickly with a bunch of loses, capped off by the Matt Diaz double from hell. A week after the adulation of sweeping the Mets, the Phillies were six games back.
They were seven games back on Sept. 12. They were 2.5 games back Sept. 17 and Sept. 23. If the Phils were to lose these two games, they’d be 2.5 games back on Aug. 27.
Of course, 2007 was its own little world, with the Mets collapsing and the Phils going 13-4 down the stretch. We can’t expect that kind of close again. But being 2.5 games down with a month to play is no lost cause. Not even close. Sure you can talk about momentum and bragging rights and the importance of beating the team ahead of you, but these two games are no different than the first two in Chicago, or the next two in Chicago, and so on.
So don’t get crazy if things don’t work out these next two nights. And don’t get crazy if they do, and the Phils sweep the set. A 1.5-game lead with over a month to play? No reason to go nuts.