Like Steve said, two out of three is all right. We gained a game on the Phillies with a patchwork starting rotation. It's the sort of thing you expect from first place teams. I was at the second game of the series. Soler's first inning as a major league pitcher was painful to watch and he made no effort to hide his shame. At one point, I can't remember if it was before or after his third consecutive walk, Soler was pacing and cursing himself. There were no illusions of professional cool. He reminded me of a Chris Farley character from SNL, the guy who gets to interview his heroes but always asks obvious questions and beats himself up as a result. ("Man, that was such a stupid question. I'm so stupid! How could I be so stupid?") I expected Willie Randolph to emerge from the dugout with a loaded Luger (not sure why I see a Luger in this scenario) and put Soler out of his misery. But once the rookie settled down, he looked fine. It wasn't pretty, but he didn't give up a run over the next five innings. (And in Soler's defense, Woodward let the most routine of double play ground balls go through him. I know Matsui is no one's favorite these days, but he would have fielded that play without a hitch.)
So what's missing from a series in which our beloved Metropolitans gained a game on the second place team? Some small sense of rivalry, that's what. The Mets and Phillies have been in the same division since 1969. They're close georgraphically. Yet a Mets/Phillies series has all the tension of a Mets/Glee Club of Greater Putnam County series. I went to the game with my friend Brad, who's a Phillies fan. On the way to Shea, Brad struck up a conversation with a fellow Phillies fan. This other guy was running his mouth about the Mets' imminent collapse. About how Pedro and Glavine were going to go down the drain by mid-June. About how the Mets offense is no better than last year's. He got on my nerves. But as Brad and talked throughout the game we realized what a favor that other guy had done. He was talking trash. He was treating the Mets like a hated rival. He was talking about the Mets the way I talk about the Braves and Yankees. Brad and I watched all game for signs of conflict between Philly and New York. A Mets pitcher sticking one in Pat Burrell's ear. Chase Utley taking out Reyes at second. We saw nothing of the sort. Instead we got a polite well-played, one-run ballgame between two teams who just happen to be vying for first place in the same division. The Mets play six games against the Yankees. They play 18 against the Phillies. The math is obvious, but the lack of passion in these games is not. Who's going to light the spark between these teams? Do we need Pedro to start plucking guys like he did against the Nationals?
In a completely unrelated note, I heard a rumor that Phillies pitcher Jon Lieber is addicted to pain pills. And, whenever he's scheduled to start a game, insists on having nothing but Air Supply played in the clubhouse. Has anyone else heard these things? I'm not trying to slander the man's character. I'm just asking the questions.