The New York Mets are in first place in the National League East, just ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies. But the true test of their mettle will be in the upcoming series against the Phillies—that is likely to either confirm, or deny, the Mets’ leadership.

Apart from the half game differential, the two teams have similar records, 13-9 vs. 12-9. But based on strength of schedule and recent momentum, all the energy lies with the Mets at this point.

The Mets have been on a roll, winning their last three series against the Chicago Cubs, the Atlanta Braves, and Los Angeles Dodgers. Playing in the three different divisions they lost only one game to the Cubs in a 9-1 stretch.

The Phillies got off to a strong start, in part by feasting off the Houston Astros, the “sick man” of the National League Central. But their recent record is only 4-6, with series losses against Arizona and San Francisco, two middling Western Division teams.

The teams are otherwise well balanced, coming into the series—between runs scored and runs allowed, the Phillies have been more prolific on one side, and profligate on the other.

The question mark for both teams is hitting.

The Mets’ rookie, Ike Davis, has been a sensation, (and largely responsible for the recent surge), but he’s too new to be more than a question mark at this point. Of the veterans, only Jeff Francoeur is performing slightly above his historical pace.

On the other hand, Luis Castillo, David Wright, Jason Bay, (the Pirates’ former star), Jose Reyes, and Angel Pagan have all been hitting below their career averages, leading to subpar batting numbers for the Mets. Perhaps if the Mets are winning despite this fact, it’s a sign that things will only get better from here.

For the Phillies, Jayson Werth, Placido Polanco, Ryan Howard, and Chase Utely are all hitting well. But former stars Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez are off their pace. And Jimmy Rollins is on the disabled list. 

Both teams will pitch their aces, Johan Santana and Roy Halladay respectively, on different days. Of the two, Halladay will likely have tougher opposition from Mike Pelfrey than Santana will have from Jamie Moyer, but the aces are still favorites to win on their respective days.

The tiebreaker game may well be tonight’s. featuring an emerging Jon Niese against Kyle Kendrick, who can’t pitch a normal starter’s innings.

Assuming that all three games are played (no postponements because of the weather), one or the other team will emerge from this series on top, as of the first month of baseball. And it will give a “first view” of what the rest of the season might look like.

This is what the various possible win totals could mean for the Mets:

Three wins: This would be an awesome result in Citizens’ Bank Park, one that would clearly show who’s on top, at least for now.

Two wins: The Mets clearly have an “edge,” winning two of out three in Philly. Assuming that they can do the same or better in a rematch in Citifield, they’re in clover.

One win: This would be a “par” result for the Mets on the other team’s home turf. They would leave Philadelphia half a game behind, rather than half a game ahead, but still very much in a neck-and-neck race when the next series returns home.

No wins: The recent surge might have been an aberration, and the Mets are probably outclassed.


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