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Struggling Phillies will try to show surging Mets they are STILL The Team To Beat

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For the first time since May 29th, 2009, the Philadelphia Phillies  are out of first place.

That stinks, especially when they have to look up at the New York Mets, who occupy first placeJayson Werth and the Phillies may have their work cut out for them this weekend against the Mets. Photo: Joe Vallee Sr. by half a game. What was considered a ho-hum matchup several weeks ago takes a whole new meaning when the Mets come to Citizens Bank park this weekend to play the Phillies. The Mets are currently riding a seven-game winning streak  after pounding the Dodgers Wednesday afternoon, so you have to give credit where credit is due. Just to show you how well things are going for the Mets right now, Mike Pelfrey  currently has a better overall record and lower ERA than Roy Halladay. And if you were to tell me Pelfrey would be a better number two starter than Cole Hamels  at the end of March, I would actually have given Hamels some credit (and these days, that's a tough thing to do). Oddly enough, Halladay and Pelfrey will face each other Saturday afternoon.

As much as it PAINS me to write this, the Mets have lately been doing everything the Phillies haven't been doing. The starting pitching has been consistent, their bullpen has been throwing goose eggs, and their lineup has contributed when it counts. This includes rookie Ike Davis, who was recalled after an injury to Daniel Murphy.

The Phillies on the other hand, aren't exactly playing the kind of baseball they are capable of playing. Seeing Hamels routinely get rocked in the middle innings is as much of a sure thing as Jack Bauer screaming "Damn it!" or "Who are you working for?!" right around the midway point of 24 on Monday nights. I know, I know, he had an unbelievable 2008 which we will remember for the rest of our lives. There comes a time however, when you have to turn the page and start thinking of the here and now. And right now, I don't think anybody knows who the real Cole Hamels is. He struck out 10 Giants Wednesday, but allowed four runs to a Giants offense that doesn't exactly scream "Murderers Row." Their bullpen is already exhausted and cannot get ANYBODY out, as Ryan Madson and the bunch consistently demonstrate for us. And if you're relying on Brad Lidge  AND J.C. Romero  to come in and save the day, that's a pretty tall order right now. Do YOU want David Herndon on your playoff roster pitching the eighth inning of a tight game? Exactly.

The bats will come around, but at this time look deader than dead. Even when this team pulls out a victory, it is practically a disaster waiting to happen (as evidenced by their 7-6 win over the Giants Wednesday). As resilient of a team as the Phillies are, there is no denying that injuries have truly taken their toll. So much to the point where you have to wonder how many bandaids are left at Johnson and Johnson to patch them up. Ruben Amaro  can try to fill some holes, but some might not be easily filled. The Phillies' biggest concerns this off-season have come to life. Throw injuries into the mix and it only makes it worse. We will probably have a better idea around June of what needs to be addressed once the walking wounded (Joe Blanton, Jimmy Rollins, J.A. Happ, Lidge) return. One positive spin you can put on this is that Charlie Manuel can give the reserves some playing time.

As much as I put my doom and gloom spin on the Phillies (I'm just calling it as I see it), theyJose Reyes will try and keep the Mets in first place this weekend. Photo: http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/07/25/sports/25mets.1.600.jpg can probably make the playoffs even though this division has improved. It's only April, and I'm not convinced that the Mets don't have a few meltdowns up their sleeve before September rolls around. Even though there is no Gary Sheffield on this team to screw up team chemistry, Pelfrey and Jose Reyes  are certifiable head cases, and word is out that Reyes is waving that damn finger of his again..........

This upcoming weekend series won't make or break this season. Chances are the Phillies won't have Kyle Kendrick  pitching a crucial September game. And if he is, the game probably won't be crucial. Remember when the Phillies swept the Braves in that four game series in the beginning of 1995? Guess who was holding the trophy that October, NOT the Phils. Pennants aren't won in April, but statements can be made. The Phillies, injuries and all, will try to show the Mets that they still are the beasts of the east.

With their current state, it won't be easy, but that's where that "resiliency" thing kicks in.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com