The Phillies found a way to lose last night in their series opener with the Padres. After the team scored three in the sixth and two in the seventh to secure a 6-3 lead, the bullpen handed the game right back to San Diego. Rick White did his job, but Franklin, Cormier and Geary did not. Franklin gave up a run and left two on base for Cormier, who promptly served up a 3-run homer to Adrian Gonzalez (his second of the night) to completely waste the lead and get himself yanked after just one batter. Fultz allowed a second insurance run, charged to Geary, and the Phils were unable to mount another comeback against the Padres Hall of Fame closer, Trevor Hoffman. The game as a whole resembled many of the Phillies losses: giving up runs early, allowing hits to the opposing pitcher, a valiant comeback (complete with a Howard home run), crucial errors, and finally a bullpen meltdown spearheaded by Ryan Franklin.
I’m not a Phillies-hater but when I watch the Phillies los, strong feelings of frustration, disappointment, and resentment overcome me. The series wins against Pittsburgh and in San Francisco provided a little hope in achieving the now 48-23 record needed for 90 wins. That record means the club must win 66% of their reamaining games, or in other words, they need to win every series. For every series they lose, they need to sweep one. Buster Olney assessed the strength-of-schedule for 12 of the NL teams in the playoff hunt and the Phillies have the ninth most difficult – which is a good thing. The Phils have 53 games against teams with below-.500 records, including every game in September. This means of course the Phils are currently in the toughest stretch of the remaining schedule; including this West Coast swing, and games against the Mets and Cardinals before mid-August. Therefore if the Phillies can fight back and win this San Diego series and steal a few games against the Mets and Cards they should be in good shape to remain in the playoff hunt. That might be a lot to ask for, but it does mean that these next three series will ultimately determine whether the Phils have set themselves up for a playoff push. It just so happens that the outcomes of the next week’s games will also go a long way in helping Pat Gillick decide if he should make moves before the trading deadline. Tomorrow we’ll looks at some of those possibilities.