Of all the unbelievable things that have happened during this Mets season, the most unbelievable may be the fact that this weekend's series in Philadelphia means as much as it does. The Phillies have lost three games on their division lead since leaving Citi Field in mid-June, which is either an act of overwhelming kindness or a sign that injuries aren't the only bad thing that can hit a baseball team.
It may be time for Charlie Manuel to call a team meeting, as the one his unrelated namesake Jerry Manuel held with the Mets seemed to do the trick. Two straight wins, including a double comeback against the Pirates on Thursday, should have shaken whatever negative cobwebs accumulated during the previous five-game losing streak. It also may have reminded the current roster that they can't just sit back and wait for reinforcements. These games count just as much, maybe even more based on the way the Phillies have been circling the drain.
That should give the Mets a bit of a mental edge, though it may be easily mitigated by the Phillies' desire to protect their home field from their rivals. The bigger edge comes on the mound. The Mets have a clear edge on the mound in two of the three games, and the third game is at least a wash. Friday night's opener sees the Phillies throwing Rodrigo Lopez, who hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2007 and wasn't particularly good at that point. He's followed by Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton, and you can't take that duo over Fernando Nieve and Johan Santana.
There's more to it, of course, especially since the Phillies have such a large edge when it comes to the lineup. But good starting pitching can cover a lot of other sins, and the Mets need to press that advantage.
That means Livan Hernandez's Friday start is quite large, indeed. A strong outing and a Mets win means there's a tie atop the NL East, and that the Phillies will have completed a collapse that is equal to the ones the Mets pulled off last September in everything but timing.