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The Home Stretch

We're 140 games into the baseball season and the Mets have gone 79-61, a better record than 24 other teams. Their +87 run differential (693 runs scored, 606 runs allowed) is likewise sixth in baseball. However reluctant we may be to admit it, the Mets are one of the elite teams in baseball. It's all relative, I suppose. They're certainly not one of the elite teams of all time, but when you're one of the five or six best teams in the majors you're probably doing a lot right. There are no true powerhouses: the Cubs and Rays lead their respective leagues in winning percentage, but neither is likely to win 100 games, nor are the Angels.

Twenty-two games remaining and a three-game lead to protect. The final double-deuce breaks down as follows:

3 vs Phillies (.543)
6 vs Nationals (.386)
6 vs Braves(.429)
4 vs Cubs(.607)
3 vs Marlins(.507)

The Cubs are a formidable opponent, but that series falls on the last week of the season and, as others have pointed out, the Cubs may have already clinched the NL Central by then. An early division title for Chicago would be good news for the Mets, who might face a skeleton crew as the Cubbies look to rest some of their better players in advance of a first-round playoff series. It's not as if the Cubs will field a lineup full of September nobodies every game, but they could conceivably send their B (or C!) team out there for a game or so. We know all too well how crucial every win is, so if the Cubs want to do the Mets a favor and scrub it up, I'll have no problems with that.

The Mets play their final twenty-two games in twenty-four days, picking up a couple of off-days bookending their two-game series with the Nationals next Tuesday and Wednesday. After that they play games on seventeen straight days to wind out the season. They've scored more runs than every National League team aside from the aforementioned Cubs, and they would do well to play some blowouts over the next few weeks to take advantage of the extra warm bodies afforded them by the late-season minor league call-ups.

First things first, though. The second-place Phillies roll into Queens for their swan song at Shea Stadium, a three-game series that culminates in a primetime, nationally-televised ESPN deathmatch between Johan Santana and Cole Hamels. Kyle Kendrick was originally slated to start the Sunday night game, but the Phillies have moved re-jiggered their rotation so their young ace can start what might be the most important game of their season. Thanks to an off-day yesterday, Hamels would still be pitching on normal rest, so it seems like a no-brainer from Philly's perspective. The Good Phight argues otherwise, as any extra innings for Hamels would push him well beyond the 190 innings he pitched last seasons. It's moot, though, because as long as the Phillies remain competitive this season they'll be doing so behind Hamels's left arm.

It all starts rolling tonight, when Mike "Twelfth-best SNLVAR in the NL" Pelfrey takes on Brett "Smack mah bitch up" Myers.