In most of the six divisions in the MLB, hovering around the .500 mark would absolutely not make you a contender for the division title. But the Phillies are lucky to play in the NL East, where even the best teams struggle to win.

Speaking of the best teams in the division, the two top teams in the East will meet in Philadelphia this weekend with only a half game separating them in the standings. Those two teams are the New York Mets and the Phillies.

Which ever team wins the series, will be in first place in the NL East.

Can the Phillies show that they’re serious about winning the division? Or when the weekend is done, will they find themselves back at the familiar .500 mark and still in second place?

We’ll see.

But in the meantime, here’s a few storylines for this weekend’s series.

Last time they met, since then

In late June, these teams played a four-game series where the Phils led in the final inning all four games. They only won two of those games. The Phillies have a new closer now in Ian Kennedy, and hopefully he can prevent that from happening again. However, it would help if his manager would actually use him in save situations, as opposed to when the team is blowing out the opposition.

The Mets have gone 16-19 since their last meeting, refusing to gain any ground in the division. They’re coming off a series where they lost three out of four to the Miami Marlins.

They were active at the trade deadline, gaining reinforcements in the form of Javier Baez, Rich Hill, and Trevor Williams. Williams won’t be helping them much as he’s been optioned to the minors. Baez is off to a slow start with his new team going just 4-25 since the trade, and at age 41, Hill is basically there to eat innings until Jacob deGrom returns from injury.

A struggling Walker

Taijuan Walker had a very strong start to the season, and earned a spot on the All-Star team. However, he’s been struggling for most of the second half. Some might blame it on fatigue. Others might notice a strong simulation between his drop-off and MLB’s crackdown on pitchers using foreign substances.

The Phillies will get a crack at the new-and-unimproved Walker in the series finale on Sunday.

An electric CBP

It feels like the fans might be beginning to believe in the Phillies. With the team on a five-game winning streak, first place on the line, and the Mets in town, it shows a reason that there could be a decent number of fans in the seats this weekend. It could be interesting to see how the players handle what should be a lively atmosphere. Especially if the team does that whole falling behind early thing that they so often do.

And speaking of fans at the stadium, I will be at the game Sunday afternoon.

Alumni weekend

Something that a lot of fans are forgetting about that I am certainly very excited about it this weekend being Alumni Weekend!

Here’s an article from MLB.com’s Paul Casella on this weekend’s festivities.

The Phils will not only host a pivotal divisional showdown against the Mets this weekend at Citizens Bank Park, but the club will also honor a trio of legends — with the help of numerous franchise icons — throughout the three-game set for the Toyota Phillies Wall of Fame Weekend.

Philadelphia will honor former executive David Montgomery on Friday before inducting Manny Trillo into the Wall of Fame on Saturday. The Phillies will then retire Roy Halladay’s number on Sunday, while also unveiling a No. 34 statue on the Third Base Plaza that will stand permanently alongside Dick Allen’s No. 15 statue.

The three-day event will feature special appearances by countless Phillies greats, including Hall of Famers Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt, along with Wall of Famers Bob Boone, Larry Bowa, John Kruk, Greg Luzinski, Mike Lieberthal, Garry Maddox and Charlie Manuel. Former teammates of Halladay are also expected to be in attendance, including Ryan Howard, Raúl Ibañez, Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz.

“It’s always fun to see the guys who played before you,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “There’s history there, but there’s also a camaraderie there, and there’s a connection there that I think is especially important. I’m really looking forward to this weekend.”

The festivities start on Friday night, when the Phils celebrate the late Montgomery with a special on-field tribute featuring his family and former players. The former president and CEO spent nearly 50 years in the Phillies’ organization and posthumously received the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award last month. All fans will receive a commemorative scorecard print of Montgomery.

On Saturday, Trillo will become the 42nd Phillie to be inducted into the Toyota Phillies Wall of Fame on the Left Field Plaza. The pregame ceremony will feature other Wall of Famers, as well as on-field interactions with Bowa, Boone and Dickie Noles — three of Trillo’s teammates on the 1980 World Series champion team. All fans in attendance will receive a commemorative Manny Trillo Wall of Fame print.

The ceremonies continue on Sunday when Halladay’s No. 34 will be forever immortalized above the rooftop in Ashburn Alley. He’ll become the eighth player to have his number retired either by the franchise or MLB as a whole, joining Richie Ashburn (No. 1), Jim Bunning (14), Dick Allen (15), Schmidt (20), Carlton (32), Robin Roberts (36) and Jackie Robinson (42). Grover Cleveland Alexander and Chuck Klein are also honored in that area.

Again, a number of former Phillies greats will take part in the festivities, including Ruiz, who caught Halladay’s May 29, 2010, perfect game and his no-hitter in the ’10 National League Division Series. Fellow teammates Ibañez, Howard and Rollins are also expected to be in attendance.

All fans on Sunday will receive a collectible Roy Halladay retired number statue.

Girardi’s only head-to-head meeting with the Hall of Fame pitcher during his playing days came in Halladay’s first full season in 1999. Girardi lined out and walked.

The two met far more frequently during Girardi’s time managing the Yankees. Doc made 12 career starts against Girardi’s New York teams, winning eight of them and tossing five complete games — including a pair of shutouts.

“We never beat him,” Girardi said when asked what he remembers about facing Halladay. “The teams I had never beat him. He was incredible. He was as dominant as any pitcher for a six-, seven-year period as I’ve seen.”

In addition to Doc’s number being retired in Ashburn Alley, a six-foot-tall No. 34 statue will be unveiled alongside Allen’s No. 15 statue on the Third Base Plaza. To further commemorate the day, the No. 34 will be featured not only on a patch worn by the players, but also on the bases and the official game ball.

Halladay, who died in November 2017 at the age of 40, was inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame in 2018 and enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in ’19.

Pitching matchups

Game 1: Kyle Gibson (RHP | 7-3, 2.86 ERA) vs. Marcus Stroman (RHP | 7-10, 2.80 ERA)
Game 2: Ranger Suárez (LHP | 5-3, 1.04 ERA) vs. Tylor Megill (RHP | 1-1, 2.68 ERA)
Game 3: Zack Wheeler (RHP | 9-6, 2.57 ERA) vs. Taijuan Walker (RHP | 7-6, 3.86 ERA)

The numbers

Run Differential:
Phillies: -12
Mets: -11

Runs Scored Per Game:
Phillies: 4.64
Mets: 3.77

Runs Allowed Per Game:
Phillies: 4.75
Mets: 3.87

Game times and broadcasts

  • Friday, August 6 at 7:05pm ET on ESPN, NBC Sports Philadelphia, 94.1 WIP
  • Saturday, August 7 at 4:05pm ET on FS1, NBC Sports Philadelphia, 94.1 WIP
  • Sunday, August 8 at 1:05pm ET on TBS, NBC Sports Philadelphia, 94.1 WIP