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The Battle For First Begins Tonight

Jul 22, 2008, 4:30 PM EDT

It was only a few short weeks ago that the Phillies had a comfortable 7.5 game lead on the Mets and were sitting pretty alone atop the NL East. Then the Phils bats took a mid-summer siesta, the Phils pitching took a trip South (or to Lehigh), and the Mets pitching turned up the heat. Before we knew it those stinking New Yorkers were sitting right next to us.

The Phillies never seemed to me like a team that could hold a nice lengthy lead anyway. They lack the consistent starting pitching and seem more like a team that needs to grind and scrape their way into the post season. Get ready for a tight second half because whether we like it or not, the Mets are going to right there with us until October.

Here’s my question: what ever happened to that "we’re the team to beat" Jimmy Rollins? That guy that went into Shea stadium and didn’t give a rat’s ass what the fans said. That guy who hustled his way to an MVP season. It’s time for Jimmy to step up and no better team to do it against than the Mets.

Jimmy hasn’t been getting it done at the plate and hasn’t been able to set the table like he did last season. His ability to get on base and make things happen on the base path will be crucial to a Phils playoff run.

As for the other guys, Chase Utley has bounced back from a bad slump and looks to continue to have a fine season. I’m not worried about Chase. Ryan Howard has been connecting at a great clip and Pat Burrell is the Mets killer.

This series is big and will certainly be telling about what kind of character this team has.

Wednesday could be a gigantic night for Brett Myers and Phillies fans everywhere. Not only will he face the Mets reliable John Maine but his future as a guy Charlie Manuel can send out there every fifth day could be determined.

Tonight it will be Average Joe against the Ace of New York. Let’s hope this Blanton guy can make Pat Gillick look real smart in his last season in Philly.