At the end of this series, the Phillies will have a better idea who they are and where they are headed. For the Mets, it’s a test to see how they match up with their closest NL East competitor.
Both teams were able to shake off the fading Braves in earlier meetings to separate themselves from the pack, but only the Mets have risen to the ranks of the National League elite. Their 21-10 record (.677) is tops in the NL and all indications are they're ready for the long haul.
On the other side, the 17-14 Phillies started cold, but have won eight straight and are now four-games back in the NL East. Aside from an opening-series sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Phillies have not faced choice competition.
Tonight, the Phillies best starting pitcher, Brett Myers (2-1, 3.11 ERA), matches up with the unblemished Pedro Martinez (5-0, 2.72 ERA). On paper, tonight may represent the Phillies best chance to take a game this series. Martinez has never pitched in Citizen's Bank Park, but is 7-4 with a 2.84 career ERA against the Phillies.
All the Billy Wagner talk has shifted focus away from a stalwart Mets bullpen, which could become the deciding factor is a series that could take on a playoff atmosphere. For the Phils, their own bullpen has been red-hot, and the offense, led by NL Player of the Week Chase Utley, is starting to live up to their rep as an army that can go toe-to-toe with anyone. They'll need it here; the Mets offense is equal to the task.