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Miami Marlins face June gauntlet -- as do others

    PHILADELPHIA -- With the best regular-season month in franchise history now behind them, the Marlins turn the calendar page to arguably the most challenging stretch of their schedule -- June.

    Beginning tonight with the start of a three-game series against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, the Marlins face nothing but winning teams the rest of the month. For that matter, there are really no soft spots for them until after the All-Star break. The only sub-.500 opponent the Marlins are scheduled to face between now and July 17 are the Brewers (23-28) in early July, and they're no cupcake.

    But here's the thing: nobody in the National League East is getting off light in June. The Mets and Phillies each have 15 games against first-place teams this month (the Marlins have six). Because the NL East is matched with the AL East in interleague play, the June waters are shark infested for everyone.

    Taking a look at overall strength of schedule, here's how the NL East stacks up based on the collective winning percentage of each team's opponents this month:

     1) New York Mets (.543) -- The Mets face the Yankees six times. They also see the first-place Nationals, first-place Reds, first-place Dodgers and the AL East co-leaders, the Orioles and Rays.

     2) Atlanta Braves (.541) -- Like the Mets, the Braves also face the Yankees six times. Here's who else they'll be playing: Nationals (5 games), Marlins (3), Blue Jays (3), Orioles (3), Red Sox (3) and Arizona (3).

     3) Marlins (.535) -- The Marlins are facing only six different opponents this month, but they're all beasts: the Rays (6 games), Red Sox (6), Blue Jays (3), Phillies (5), Braves (3) and Cardinals (3).

     4) Philadelphia Phillies (.526) -- The Phillies have eight different opponents, and three of them (the Twins, Rockies and Pirates) are very beatable. But they've also got the Dodgers, Orioles, Rays, Blue Jays and Marlins.

     5) Washington Nationals (.525) -- With the exception of a 4-game series against the Rockies, the Nationals don't have any breathers in June. They'll be seeing the Braves, Mets, Marlins, Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays and Rays.

     Just looking at it overall, I'm thinking this could be the month where the Mets drop out of it. And, with all their injuries, how much longer can the Phillies hang on? Anyone else have an opinion?

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