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The National League East, boasted as one of MLB's toughest divisions prior to the 2021 season, looked lackluster on May 20.

The first-place New York Mets held a two-game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies, while the eventual World Series champion Atlanta Braves sat at four games below .500 and were in fourth place.

One year later, the NL East is in a similar spot. While the Mets' lead over the second-place Phillies looms larger at seven games, Philadelphia's window of opportunity is wide open with 123 games remaining.

The Mets' strength is their starting pitching. Entering the season, their rotation, headlined by Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, and rounded out by Chris Bassitt, Tylor Megill, and Carlos Carrasco, was one of MLB's strongest.

But with deGrom's timetable for return from a shoulder blade injury still being unknown, Megill recently being placed on the injured list with right biceps tendinitis, and Scherzer now missing 6-8 weeks with an oblique strain, the Mets look a lot less threatening.

So far, the Mets have had the edge over the Phillies in the season series. Philadelphia is 3-6 when facing New York, having had a combined no-hitter and miraculous come-from-behind 8-7 win in the ninth inning come against them.

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However, the Phillies' and Mets' offenses are pretty evenly matched. Currently, Philadelphia possesses the league's fifth-highest OPS at .729, the Mets clocking in at 10th at .715, the Miami Marlins at .708, and the Braves below league-average at .684.

Philadelphia's offense, when at full strength with Bryce Harper in their lineup, is a deadly weapon. Phillies' starting pitching has fared well, but their bullpen—which continues to be their biggest weakness—has inflated their team ERA to 3.91, which is below league-average.

With the Mets losing key starters and the Braves barely scratching out wins, the Phillies have a chance to make up serious ground in the division throughout the rest of May, June, and early July. The month-and-a-half stretch might be the best odds the Phillies have to take advantage.

As exhibited during their recent West Coast trip, the Phillies have what it takes to overcome bad pitching and compete with "good" teams; They went 5-2 and scored 50 runs against the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Though Philadelphia must figure it out...and fast. The secret ingredient to success that the Phillies have failed to find over the last few seasons is consistency. Should they find some consistency and make a few key moves at the trade deadline in August, Philadelphia has a chance to be this season's Atlanta Braves by taking advantage of a crumbling division and finally breaking their playoff drought.

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