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Checking out some of the best local MLB rivalries

Is the Phillies-Braves series a heated rivalry? How about the Phillies-Mets? Or does the Yankees-Red Sox still have the same juice?

In this week’s version of my Behind the Plate column - investigating past and present trends with the Phillies, Mets, and Yankees as well as the overall game - I’ll take a look at the those aforementioned matchups, and the current state of them.

Also, the Cardinals are quietly piecing together a run toward the postseason, and they have had some memorable players over the years.

Keeping it close ... In this decade, the regular-season series has been tight, hence the feelings of a tight-knit rivalry.

Since 2017, the Phillies have had only won two regular-season series - one in 2017 by a 13-6 deficit.

During the 90s, they won three series - highlighted by a 10-8 mark in 1993; won three during the 80s with a 10-3 mark in 80 (5-1 in Atlanta); three in the 70s, having a 10-2 (6-0 in Atlanta) mark in 1977; and one in the 60s, with a 12-6 record in 1965 (7-2 at home).

Overall, the Braves have a 1,297-1,207 advantage.

After Sunday’s game, the Braves were eight games behind the Phillies, but don’t count Atlanta out just yet. Despite losing Ronald Acuna Jr. and Spencer Strider, the Braves still have plenty of firepower, and they always find some young pitchers to fill the voids.

One interesting fact is there are seven games left (four in Philly) between the two, and the series ends Sept. 1. The Phillies end their regular season in Washington.

A Brave Old World ... In terms of the Phillies-Braves rivalry, Atlanta was at the top of the heap with 14 straight division titles from 1991 through 2005, capturing the World Series in 1995. It recently won six division titles from 2018 to 2023, taking its fourth overall title in 2021.

Many people have forgotten that the Braves won the NL West crown in 1969, but lost to the Mets in the NLCS.

Lately, though, the Phillies have had the last laugh, as the Fightins’ have an overall 10-4 postseason record, dating back to the 1993 NLCS.

The First I-95 Series ... Like the Phillies and the Braves, the Phils and Mets have also had their share of skirmishes. Simply because of the sheer “Big City” and proximity factor, it was always assumed the two teams were bitter enemies.

Since the Mets’ inception in 1962, the Phillies have a 552-521 advantage in the series, and the two teams have never met in the postseason.

The Phillies dominated the season series in the 60s and 70s, except for the Mets’ 1969 run when they won 12 of 18 games. The Mets turned the table in the 80s, 90s, and had a slim advantage in the 2010s. So far this decade, the Phillies have won two of the first three seasons.

Speaking of rivalries, they will meet six times in September.

From the Flame to the Flicker ... This battle can date back to when the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919, helping pave the way to 27 World Series titles. Ironically, the Red Sox won the title in 1918. Boston felt the “Curse of the Bambino,” as it continually failed to win the big games.

There were the Thurman Munson-Carlton Fisk exchanges of the 70s, pushing through to the bench-clearing brawls, notably the one in which Pedro Martinez threw down Yankees’ coach Don Zimmer.

However, since 2022, the feud between the two has lost firepower.

The Red Sox defeated the Yankees, 6-2, in the 2012 Wild Card game, and it was the last true high-powered matchup.

New York has followed its script by reloading with the likes of Juan Soto and ex-Red Sox Alex Verdugo, who they added this season, while Boston has lost stars such as Mookie Betts and Chris Sale.

The Red Sox have a current lineup that doesn’t automatically come to mind for the average baseball fan. For the past two seasons, they slipped out of contention into fifth place.

Overall, before Saturday’s game, the Yankees had a 1,281-1,036 advantage in the series.

The Yanks biggest margin in this decade was 14-5 in 2019, 7-3 in 1994, 10-3 in 1980, and 11-7 in both 1971 and 1976. Over the past 50 years, many seasons have featured advantages of a few games.

The Evil Empire vs. The Idiots ... Through the 90s and into the early 2000s, the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry certainly was at a full flame leaving its share of first-degree burns.

In 2002 when the Yankees outbid the Sox for Latin pitcher Jose Contreras after the Bronx Bombers signed Japan’s Hideki Matsui, Boston general manager Larry Lucchino publicly stated that “The evil empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America.”

The term stuck and is still applied today when applicable.

A year later, the Red Sox coined the phrase “Cowboy Up” for their noted resiliency, taking the Yankees to Game Seven of the ALCS before succumbing.

Yet, according to published reports, “Cowboy Up!” began to wear thin. In 2004, Johnny Damon began to use the term “idiots” to refer to his team, citing their care-free approach and their ability to block out the negativity from the previous seasons. That was the same year Boston won its first World Series in 86 years.

But who knows? The Sox are in third place and in the Wild Card hunt, and they took two games of the three-game weekend series.

High-Flying Birds ... Anyone notice the St. Louis Cardinals? After Saturday’s game, the Redbirds were 47-42 and in second place in the NL Central.

They also have the third NL Wild Card spot. This was a team that finished last in the division last season with a 71-91 record.

The Cardinals are hitting .243 as a team (ninth in NL) and have a team ERA of 3.95 (eighth in NL).

They have been getting it done with a starting pitching staff composed of journeymen Sonny Gray (9-5, 3.30) and Lance Lynn along with Kyle Gibson (6-3, 3.86) and Miles Mikolas.

At the time of this writing, reliever Ryan Helsley converted all of his 31 save opportunities with a 2.41 ERA along with ex-Phillie JoJo Romero (2.56), John King (2.78), Ryan Fernandez (2.08), and Andrew Kittredge (3.24).

Third-year second baseman Nolan Gorman leads the team with 17 homers and 43 RBIs, and veteran first baseman Paul Goldschmidt has 11 homers, but is struggling. Top prospect shortstop Mason Wynn is hitting .294.

Time Passages ... Each week, I’ll recall a game from our past.

It was Aug. 2, 1972, and the Mets hosted the Phillies at Shea Stadium. New York’s Tom Seaver was seemingly in control in the ninth inning with a 3-2 lead.

But Tommy Hutton - who hit well against Seaver - smacked a double that chased Larry Bowa home from first to tie the game, and then Deron Johnson followed with a pinch-hit, two-run shot that gave the Phillies a two-run cushion and an eventual 5-3 victory. Hutton had three hits and two RBIs.

Billy Champion pitched the first six innings and gave way to Billy Wilson. Mac Scarce (1-1) gained the victory and Dick Selma recorded a save. Seaver (12-9) went the distance and took the loss.

In 62 plate appearances, Hutton hit. 320 with three homers and 15 RBIs lifetime against Seaver.

Rotisserie Roundup ... In keeping with this article, Winn would be a good pickup. You may also look at Mets’ second baseman Jose Igelsias and third baseman Mark Vientos. Phillies’ pitcher Cristopher Sanchez could help.

Aside from the local teams, try Seattle and ex-Phillie shortstop J.P. Crawford, Reds’ outfielder Jake Fraley, and Brewers’ pitcher Colin Rea.

Feedback ... Your comments are always welcomed at tnsports@tnonline.com