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The Mets have the type of momentum the Phillies have rarely found and never sustained over the last decade. Whether New York sustains it or not remains to be seen. But regardless, finding it is most important right now for the Phillies. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

Belief Key For Phillies To Reach Potential, Find Success In 2022: 7th-Day Stretch

The Mets have the type of momentum the Phillies have rarely found and never sustained over the last decade. Whether New York sustains it or not remains to be seen. But regardless, finding it is most important right now for the Phillies. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

Belief Key For Phillies To Reach Potential, Find Success In 2022: 7th-Day Stretch

There were a lot things that stood out during the Mets’ impressive performance(s) over the Phillies last weekend. Perhaps none of them stood out more, though, than the crowd. After Friday’s no-hitter, over 40,000 fans packed the seats at Citi Field. The last fifteen years of Mets baseball have largely been difficult, and both Mets and Phillies fans can tell you how hard it is to believe. Mets fans did this weekend. Sure, attendance dropped back to the low 30,000s for Sunday Night Baseball, though it certainly sounded like more at times. Regardless, that is still better than anything the Phillies have drawn since the opening weekend of the season.

Believing after twenty-three games is one thing; being able to do so after 162-plus is another. The Phillies have been in the honeymoon phase their NL East Rivals, the National League’s best team at the end of its first month, before. It largely felt like the Phillies limped to their third straight .500 April. There are reasons for that. The rotation is still stretching out. Their schedule was incredibly daunting, though May will also be tough, and the Phillies learned the hard way last year that getting the hard games out of the way early guarantees nothing.

The Phillies have scored like they were supposed to so far. But it doesn’t really feel like it. The Phillies are T-5th in the Majors in producing runs. But they are scoring more in bunches than a steady stream so. They have taken two of five from the Mets, a respectable total. But they were the worse team for all but about four innings in those five games. A big 8th inning in their first meeting and big swings from Kyle Schwarber and Rhys Hoskins, with a hat-tip to the bullpen for keeping the Phillies in both games, is really all they can hold over the Mets so far this year.

Of course, the Phillies season does and will go beyond just head-to-head comparisons to the Mets. It’s been a while since both teams were at their best at the same time, though; they haven’t both finished over .500 in the same year since 2007. It’s not like the Phillies have never gained positive momentum over the last decade, or more appropriately, within the last four years when their postseason window reopened. Parts of the lineup have clicked while others have not. The rotation has pitched well at times, but often they haven’t gotten the run support. Or when they have, the bullpen has found a way to squander late leads, or let close games get out of hand like on Sunday. Frustrating mistakes in the field or on the basepaths have often played a role as well.

A lack of belief isn’t the only reason for these things, of course. But it plays a bigger role than you think. A lack of belief certainly contributed to the team’s directionlessness at best and ineffective at worst ability to develop young talent. It’s led to some of the franchise’s lowest moments. The new era of Phillies baseball that began in 2018 started with Aaron Nola pulled at 68 pitches with a five-run lead and not a run to his name. Jean Segura thought a routine pop-up would be caught, so he didn’t hustle to first. The Padres let it intentionally drop, and Andrew McCutchen tore his ACL on the ensuing rundown. The Phillies took a 7-0 lead in the first of a seven-inning game in Toronto Dunedin, and played the rest of the game like a team with the energy of one that hadn’t scored in seven games.

Those are just three examples, of course. But was hard not to think of them, or others of the same variety, as the J.T. Realmuto swung feebily at an 0-2 Edwin Diaz slider on Friday night. Citi Field erupted with a level of joy rarely felt at Citizens Bank Park for far too long. The Mets have a postseason drought of their own they are trying to end. It’s a shorter one than the Phillies’, but a drought nonetheless.

As an offense-first team, this is probably hurting the Phillies more than most teams.

In spite of being no-hit that night, the Phillies still have reasons to believe. They showed a lot of them the next night and even some in Sunday’s defeat as well. They had just swept a four-game series from the Colorado Rockies before, who currently sit in a wild card spot. There is still plenty of time for the Phillies to rediscover belief. But the sooner they do, the easier it will be to maintain it. That’s one lesson they’d much rather learn the easy way.

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