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Jimmy Rollins

Finally, it’s that time of year. The time where football comes back into our life and when Major League Baseball starts getting into the part of the schedule that matters. This is the time of year teams are fighting for division crowns and wild card positions, something they’ve admittedly done all year; but now is the time where the overall picture is clearer with concerns to which teams are in playoff position, who are the award candidates and who has been the biggest disappointment.

With little over 30 games left on each team’s schedule, we are now entering the do-or-die portion of baseball, making last night’s Mets/Phillies game the most important one the schedule. In an eerily similar storyline as last season, the Mets are trying to hold off the charging Phillies, who, before the first pitch was thrown, trailed the Mets by half a game for the NL East league.

The Mets jumped out to 7-0 lead but failed to hold off the charging Phillies who rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. The comeback was powered by Ryan Howard’s 35th home run, Jimmy Rollins’ 5-7, three-RBI night and the game-tying double from Eric Bruntlett to send the game to extras.

Once the game got to the free baseball portion, the teams played an additional four innings before the Phillies won it in the bottom of the 13th. The winning run was scored by Shane Victorino who tripled to lead off the inning. Victorino was batted in by Chris Coste, giving the Phils the 8-7 victory and the overall lead in the NL East.

If the Mets collapse against the Phillies reminds fans of last season, it’s with good reason. As you probably recall, during the final month of 2007, the Mets gave up the NL East championship by losing 12 of their last 17 games. After blowing their 22nd save of 2008, it’s easy to see why Mets fans are reminded of last season’s debacle. The question is, can they avoid another collapse or will they be able to bounce back and regain the NL East lead from Philadelphia?

Tonight, the Mets have an opportunity to salve last night’s wounds as Johan Santana takes the mound. In his previous outings against Philadelphia, Santana has given up seven runs in 23 innings while striking out 20. However, Santana has only earned one win for these efforts.

If the Mets expect to catch and hold-off the Phillies, they’ll need to do better by their ace. For their sakes, they should hope Santana goes as long as possible, pitching a complete game if necessary.