A Look Ahead: Light at the End of the Tunnel

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Mon, September 21, 2009 10:10 PM | Comments: 37

Sometimes, during the course of 162 games, we as fans get tired, fatigued even, as our boys trudge along in search of a chance at October glory. Late July and early August are dubbed,”The dog days of summer,” for a reason. We get bored, we get angry, we see joy, we feel pain. We witness heroes emerge just as easily as we see great men fail. A pressure situation here, a tough loss there. A six month baseball season can be a long and stressful amount of time. There are great times. A walk-off home run. An extra-innings thriller. Sometimes 162 games can bring sheer exhilaration.

There are now 14 games left to play. The payoff for the gamble of investing your time, energy, and emotion is within reach. However, like most gamblers, we need not count what is not in our hands. As quickly as the reward may come, just as quick could it be snatched from us.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel that is a 162 game season. If the Phillies take care of business in their next week, there is a good possibility that the small needle of light in the tunnel will become the lights of center-stage, as they casually stroll into their third straight post-season appearance.

The Phillies start their journey in Miami for a three-game set with the second-place Marlins. The series kicks off with a double header on Tuesday and concludes Wednesday. The Fish sit eight games back of the Phils and a sweep of the Phillies put the Fish in a good position to make a run at the division. However if the Phillies sweep, the Phillies will eradicate the Marlins from a chance at the Eastern Division crown.

Series probables for the Marlins include staff ace, Josh Johnson who enters with a 15-4 record and a 3.01 ERA. He is 1-0 with a no-decision in two starts this year against the Phils. Also pitching for the Fish will be Annibal Sanchez and Rick VandenHurk. Sanchez hasn’t won a game since August 21st but hasn’t been terrible.

The Phillies counter with Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer, and Cole Hamels. Blanton, although not impressive, still held the Nationals scoreless over six innings. Blanton has hands down been the most consistent starter this season. Moyer has been rejuvenated from the sting of his demotion to the pen and Hamels has finally found his stride.

Following the divisonal showdown, the Phillies head to the cheese and beer capital of the U.S. to take on the Brewers. Despite being far from playoff bound, the Brewers have been one of the hottest team in baseball, going 8-2 over their last ten.

The Brewers will start the series with Jeff Suppan on the hill. Yovani Gallardo, the young ace for Milwaukee was pulled from the rotation and will not make his scheduled start on Friday. Instead, the Phillies will face rookie Josh Butler. Butler will make his major league debut, but was impressive in the minors for the Brewers.

The Phillies will send J.A. Happ and Pedro Martinez on Thursday and Friday, despite both pitchers leaving their last starts early with injury. Both appear to be ready and healthy, however, should the Phillies wrap up the division by then, don’t be surprised to see one or both of these starters to get a day off.

The Phillies could very well clinch the division by weeks end. Going 4-3 or better will almost assure them the Eastern title. 3-4 or worse will certainly make the last week of the season more interesting.

Time to take care of business. The prize is within reach.

Avatar of Jason Bintliff

About Jason Bintliff

Jason Bintliff has written 55 articles on Phillies Nation.

Jason Bintliff is a Phillies season ticket holder and avid fan for 28 years. He was a former free lance writer and contributor to various baseball blogs. He is also the proud son of the owner of Lena Blackburns Baseball Rubbing Mud.

  • Posts: 0 joedad

    So after all this, the last NL team to go to the World Series and make the playoffs the next year was the 1999 Braves. The last to win and return, the 1995 Braves.

    Enjoy the ride folks. This is a special team who we EXPECT to win back to back WS. As a fan who put up with hoping Bruce Ruffin would be the next Carlton or Rick Shue the next Schmidt, who couldn’t wait to see the September call ups to see hope for the future years, this is baseball heaven.

  • Posts: 0 Fightin' in NY

    There are 14 games left for the Phils, not 12.

  • Posts: 49 Jason Bintliff

    Avatar of Jason Bintliff

    thanks for catching that, hit the wrong button.

  • Posts: 0 j reed

    So do you guys think we’ll win homefield advantage

  • Posts: 0 GWFightinsFan

    I believe the prize is another World Series appearance if not win. NL East crown is simply a means to that end now…

  • Posts: 0 karen

    Honestly, it is an honor to be in the post season…that is about all that should be thought of now…..I am more nervous this year because i am scared to see the phillies lose :( The pressure is a million times more than last year.

    Not to be selfish, but i would rather have the phillies clinch at home…but thats just me :)

  • Posts: 0 phils_ftw

    Mathmatically speaking, even if the Phils go 5-9 the Marlins would need to go 12-0 just to tie, and the Braves would need to go 13-0 just to tie. I really don’t see either happening from the Marlins or Braves.

  • Posts: 0 gm-carson

    Blanton and Moyer are a combined 16-4 against the Fish with a 2.98 ERA over 124 innings. The duo of Johnson and Sanchez are 4-5 with a 5.10 ERA in 67 innings when facing the Phils (most of that being Anibal’s fault).

  • Posts: 0 David K

    Today, we embark upon a double-header with the fish. You know what that means, Phillies phans! Trouble for the fish!

  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Good to see Jamie “Fish-killer” Moyer pitching that game…

  • Posts: 0 Morris Buttermaker

    No, it means Bad News for the Marlins!

    I just realized about 20 minutes ago that today is probably the biggest day of the season for the Phillies. And I might actually have time to watch both games.

  • Posts: 0 Morris Buttermaker

    Also, was I the only one watching the Dolphins-Colts game last night thinking, “Seriously, the Phillies have to play a Double header on that field in less than 24 hours?”

    I don’t know how ESPN, the NFL and Marlins got away with this. Actually I do. A ton of money. And the lack of a commisioner for the MLB.

  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    Mathematically, the Fish and Braves are both still alive… realistically, it’s going to be damn near impossible for either team to overcome an 8 game lead with 14 remaining. Barring a monumental collapse, we’ve locked up our third straight NLE title. Sorry guys but I’m not playing coy… the fiber that this team is made of won’t allow the impossible to happen… they have proven that much and earned my trust. This core group of players might be the best group of players that this city has ever had to root for in any sport. On the field and off, they are truly special… think about the five guys that are the faces of this team (Howard, Utley, Rollins, Victorino and Hamels); each of them actively donates time and money to promote great causes, each of them leaves it on the field every night and each of them is regarded among the best in the game…

    I know that there are “holes” in this team (bullpen, bench… whatever) but I feel pretty good about our chances. They have played with bulls’ eyes on their backs the entire season and they overcame it. There is no other contender that can say that… every night and every series lends our opponent the opportunity to knock off the defending World Champs and this team accepted that challenge and thrived.

    There are two great articles on the Phillies website; one which speaks to Jimmy Rollins’ prowess as a fielder (his .983 career fielding percentage is second in baseball history among all shortstops behind Omar Vizquel) and the other discussing Lee’s eagerness to pitch in what will be his first postseason.

    Long post… my $0.02 (might need to pay extra for this one).

  • Posts: 0 Bob Kahn

    Phils will win the division. However, I am not comfortable with post season. You need to be a hot team to win those 11 games and while the Phillies are doing OK they are not hot. The starting pitching has been good but the back end of the bullpen is problematic, the bench is weak and the hitting is off and on.

    I am hoping for the best but I won’t be surprised at an early elimination. It takes more than a good team to win the WS, you also need the right timing and some luck.

    For me, just getting to postseason is a success. After that it is a crapshoot.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    You talk of the five guys that are the “faces” of this team….and that doesn’t even include fan favorites like Werth, Rauuuuuuul, Chooch, Lee, Pedro Martinez, Joe the Pitcher, Happ…..the list goes on. This TRULY a special bunch….and win or lose, as a fan, I’m really proud of them.

  • Posts: 0 Mike D.

    Huge games today, and I’m slightly worried. Marlins are coming off a bad series loss and will want revenge. And I’m going to be in class for both these games. Go Phils!

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    “While the Phillies are doing OK they are not hot.” …..oh really….they’ve only won 10 of the past 13 games.

    Bullpen is admittedly flawed, but most teams have those issues right now….and it’s pretty much held its own. Even Lidge’s performance on Sunday wasn’t that bad.

    The bench has had some clutch hits lately and the RISP stat has improved.

    The Phillies will most likely clinch by the weekend and then Charlie will be able to rest some of the regulars, get some bench guys some work and set his rotation.

    I think this team is in as good a position as it can be for the playoffs.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Look….even if the the Marlins win 3 of 4 we still have a 6 game lead and the Magic number goes down to 4. I see at least a split in Miami. I don’t see why some of you are “worried.”

  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    Double Fish Fry today- let’s go Big Joe and J-Mo!!!

  • Posts: 0 CZ

    Chuck, we only play 3 games against the Marlins so there won’t be any ‘splitting’ going on this week…unless its in the 4 gamer in Beertown.

    This is a great article over at The Good Phight. It puts into perspective what makes the Phillies such a winning team this year despite the ‘warts’ that can be so hard to overlook sometimes. Its very worth noting that the Phills’ pitching has the best K/BB ratio in baseball.


  • Posts: 0 Karen

    I don’t think there is anyway the phillies won’t get this division. On a positive note, the less they win this week, the more likely the clinch will be at home. But we didn’t look to good against the astros earlier this month.

  • Posts: 0 Mike D.

    I’m a natural worrier, Chuck. I don’t want to see what it’s like being a Mets fan. And I fear a fired-up team like the Marlins – didn’t they predict they’d sweep us? Reminds me of us in 2007.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    My bad…..the 4 game series is against the Brewers. Still….2 of 3 in South Florida. And even if we only win one we are still in great shape. R E L A X everybody…..enjoy the position we are in. It hasn’t been like this for awhile.

    What is to fear about the Marlins? They are 8 games back …just lost 2 of 3 to the Reds. The Fish are done. The situation is completely different than 2007.

    We all should root for an early clinch….forget the clinching at home thing. The sooner the Phils have the division they can turn their focus to the playoffs. A week or more to tweak this or that, set the rotation, rest guys is just what this team needs.

  • Posts: 0 beta sigma shag

    I do not want to bring bad karma or anything, but don’t the Phillies have a chance to have home field for the NL playoffs. And should that not be a focus right now. I mean we are only one game back in the loss column and 2 up on the Cards. So if we can win say 10 of the 14 games, or even go 9-5 should that not put us iin good shape to have best record in NL. And the question is should that be something to play for, or is it more importent to be lined up for the playoffs rotation and rest wise

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Good question. I think both are important. Resting players is important but you don’t want to put a minor league lineup out there either. I then think if you can rest 2 guys a night and spread that out then the chance of winning ballgames is pretty good.

    Home field would be HUGE….but if the Phils don’t get that it’s not the end of the world either. They won’t have it for the WS as it is.

  • Posts: 0 beta sigma shag

    So if my math is correct, if the phils can go 10-4 and LA could go 6-6 and we could have the best record in the NL

  • Posts: 0 beta sigma shag

    But they did in both of the rounds leading up to the WS right, since LA beat the Cubs who had the best record, and could not play the Brewers in the wild card round, so we had homefield over them and then LA had the worst record of division winners.
    I guess what I am asking since the phillies have more games than either LA or St. Louis, coming into the last weekend if win on that sunday do you throw Hamels out there, Since the Playoff start on Wed I believe, So then he could not pitch until game 3. Or hope it is Big Joe’s turn, so game 3 is where he would pitch anyway

  • Posts: 0 Phan in Tn

    totally forgot about the double header. Now I get to watch a twin fish killing.

  • Posts: 0 beta sigma shag

    But as I look at LA’s schedule they have Washington, Pittsburgh, San Diego, and the Rockies, and the Cards play Houston the reds, and the Brewers. So it looks like LA will be more like 8-4

  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    I think that rest is more important… I mean, they should continue to play hard but they should have a plan and stick to it (with regards to how much they’re going to use/rest each player). A couple of friends brought up the point that their road record is better than their home record… I think that home field is very important in the playoffs but I’m not worried if we have to go into LA and spank Man-Ram.

  • My wish is that the Phillies clinch in Milwaukee on Friday night. My view of it would be from the 4th row behind home plate in the section viewable when the center field camera is on the pitcher/batter. If there are any empty seats in the 1st 2 rows, I’ll be there. I’m hoping to be able to wave hi to my family and friends back in Philly! Go Fightins!

  • Posts: 0 joedad

    I think homefield advantage is most important in the first round because you want 3 of 5 on your homefield. The Phils should be able to secure the best or second best record in the NL and i think they will do what they can to have the top record. Does anyone know the tiebreakers?

    I don’t think the regulars will get too much rest. Keep in mind that they need to stay sharp going into the playoffs and there are at least 2 days off between the last day of the regular season and the playoffs. They will set up the starting rotation in the order they want for the playoffs and will cut back on the starters pitches once they clinch.

    And of course, they will try to get Lidge right…

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    That first round IS critical and home field would DEFINITELY be most important with that. My gut feeling tells me that if the Phils either sweep that series or win it in 4 then they will have some serious momentum going into the NLCS…..whoever that opponent is. And doing that will also get them an extra day or two of rest, which would really help. You don’t want to go into the next round completely spent.

  • Posts: 0 Ben

    chuck, remember the way these things are spread out now though, if you clinch even one game early, you get like 4 days rest. not sure what the schedule looks like, and i know its slightly different than the nlcs/ws rest (which can be upwards of 10 days).

    plus, when you start splitting hairs about when you want to advance to the next round and be at the doorstep of another world series, you are in a pretty nice position.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    fair point.

  • I’m looking forward 11 post season wins by the Phils

  • Posts: 0 SDO

    CZ: Interesting article…

    I would never have guessed that the Phillies hitters were in the top 5 for BB/K ratio….

    Nor would I have guessed that the Phils were #1 in stolen base percentage and #1 in fewest GIDP!

    Some more interesting stats from ESPN, for all you stat nuts:

    Phillies phans lead all of MLB in attendance percentage (102%). Boston is the only other team above 100%, but their stadium is much smaller.

    Lee, Hamels, and Happ had three of the top 10 best pitched games in the NL. (http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/bestgames)

    Citizens Bank Park ranks only 17th (below median!) in home runs per game at 1.026. Compare that stat to Yankee Stadium (#1 on the list) at 1.275. Citi Field is #6 at 1.128.

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