What Should the Phillies Do?

Posted by Pat Gallen, Mon, September 26, 2011 11:05 AM | Comments: 33
Analysis, News, Opinion, Posts

You’ll never see a baseball team tank purposely. There is an unwritten rule that says a team must play out their schedule and “try” to win games through the full 162. The Phillies find themselves in a predicament.

Starting Monday night at 7:05, they will close out the season with a critical three-game series against the Atlanta Braves that will shape the structure of the NL Playoffs. Atlanta is currently clinging to a one game lead in the Wild Card chase over the surging St. Louis Cardinals, winners of 14 of their last 18.

Charlie Manuel has made it clear that he intends to put his playoff lineup together to end the year in an attempt to gain a little momentum heading into the NLDS on October 1. By doing so, Manuel may also be screwing himself, in no uncertain terms.

If the Phillies are to go through with their plan of rolling into the playoffs on a high note, they may very well end up playing the one team that has had their number in the National League.

The Cardinals took the season series over the Phils, winning 6 out of 9 meetings. From September 18-21, St. Louis took three of four, sending the Phils into a late-season tailspin – although in fairness, the Phillies had clinched all there was to clinch. Still, it was an ugly enough series that people began to wonder; if the Cardinals were to work their way back into the Wild Card picture, would they be a tough matchup for the Phillies? I think we’re finding the answer to that.

With Atlanta floundering, ready to relinquish what had been an 8 1/2 game lead on September 1, the Phillies can beat up on them and attempt to take them out of the playoffs. St. Louis heads to Houston for the final three, meaning they have a much easier battle ahead.

So, do the Phillies play their hearts out and follow the unwritten rule? Or, do they half-ass it a bit (pretty much par for the course lately) and give Atlanta an opportunity to clinch?

It’s hard to tell players and managers to ease up when they are programmed to do one thing; win. But I feel like the Phillies can accomplish several different things in the next three days. To keep the starters fresh, play them six innings, giving them a few at bats in each game. Insert the bench for the final three innings, as well as the back-end of the bullpen. You’re trying to win the game but you’re also providing your starters plat appearances to stay crisp at the plate, and ample rest to be refreshed heading into Saturday’s game.

My guess is Charlie Manuel will play it out as if it was another regular season meeting with the Braves. But with the Cardinals about to steal a spot in the postseason, how would you play it?

Avatar of Pat Gallen

About Pat Gallen

Pat Gallen has written 1684 articles on Phillies Nation.

Pat is Editor-in-Chief of Phillies Nation. He also covers the Phils for 97.5 FM in Philly.

  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    Pat – respectfully – I can’t believe this is a topic. It is an unwritten rule that when a team that has nothing to play for (Phils) plays a team that does have something to play for (Braves) that they owe it to the teams competing with the Braves to try and win the games.

    Further, its time to stoke the fire a little bit for the playoffs. Lets play a hard series against the Bravos and then into the playoffs we go,

    The Dipsy

    • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

      Avatar of Pat Gallen

      Dipsy – respectfully – it is very much a topic and something thats being talked about quite a bit. Yes the Phillies will play hard and they want to win the last 3, but I’m asking the question is it a curse if they do.

      Do you want to see the Cards? I’m asking from a fans perspective.

  • Posts: 580 Brian Michael

    Avatar of Brian Michael

    Interestingly, in Italian soccer, they have the exact opposite unwritten rule.

  • Posts: 993 betasigmadeltashag

    Avatar of betasigmadeltashag

    Since it is so easy to play to lose or win a game I say the phillies take 2 out of three from the braves, and call houston up, since they have been so good to us in the trade market, and tell them to just win one, . This would then force the Braves and St. Louis to play an extra game using up their number on starter on Thursday or Friday, not sure when they would play. Leaving the Phillies rested and the team that they play in the first round having to travel and start game 1 without there number one starter. Would that not be the best case senario.

  • Posts: 5233 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    Having given some thought to this in the past week my opinion is, play to win. Let the chips fall where they may, and then go out and keep playing to win against whoever our opponent is. Anything else is counter productive on many levels.

  • Avatar of Dropped Strike Three

    Throwing a game isn’t all that easy… Just ask Shoeless Joe Jackson and his .375 BA in the 1919 World Series!

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Pat, I agree with what you said about play the starters 6 innings, etc . . . . . with nothing to play for except trying to get guys at bats, we shouldn’t play everyone all-out, because the injury risk is that much greater …

    Despite the fact that the Cards are the only NL team to have a winning record against us in the National League …. I’d rather play them then the Diamondbacks at this point, as the Dbacks have been a better team all season.

    I was never too concerned with this rest for the players because anything gained by playing everyday down the stretch would be washed as they don’t play Thursday and Friday anyway … all the teams are going to have to rely on their talent, and ability to “get up” for these games … i think the Phillies need to play as they have this past week.. the combination of a few at-bats for regulars… extra at-bats for bench guys… a few innigns for their starters, and extra innings for their relievers, etc …. and whoever you get in the NLDS you go try to beat with a rested team. I wouldn’t intentionally lay down to avoid an opponent, but I wouldn’t go crazy and try to desperately win these last 3 games

  • Posts: 64 RatBastardNJ

    Avatar of RatBastardNJ

    Play to win! If anyone thinks there is an easy match-up in the first round they are just kidding themselves. I know we have played the DBacks and Brew Crew better, but the playoffs is a whole different atmosphere and I think any possible match up scares me differently for each team. All regular season records are thrown out and start over. If we lose to the Braves and they become the wild card, we might get them in the next round…still not a great match-up for us. The team that scares me the most is the Brewers, not the Cardinals. Win the three games, don’t tank, let the “cards” fall where they fall.

  • Posts: 2993 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    I said yesterday that the Phillies absolutely should NOT lay down in this Braves series. My opinion is that if a team makes it to the playoffs that they must be good enough to win in the playoffs. Especially in a short series.

    Play your regulars. Rest them if the opportunity presents itself to do so. And play to win and gain some momentum, Whoever we play we play. That’s it. If the Phillies are being billed as the best team in the league with the best starting staff then they should be able to win against any opponent, right? So let’s see if that’s the case.

    Bring on the postseason. Bring on the competition.

  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    Dipsy its a good topic a controversial one but good. The Cards own us simple as that. A short series with them could be disastrous for us. Yes let the best team win blah blah frankly for me the easier the route the better. At the parade no one is going to say well they had the easier playoff schedule. The regulars should all get at least one more start all together. The Braves are a hobbled team at this point.

    • Posts: 0 mnjam

      Cards are the weakest possible opponent — easily the worst pitching team of any of the contenders. If pitching wins, then they are the opponent we should want.

  • Posts: 427 Publius

    Avatar of Publius

    Phils just need to play for themselves and get their guys ready and rested and at top condition come playoff time, regardless of who the opponent will be. Let the starters get some ABs while not risking injury and let the starting pitchers go ~75 pitches and let the kids close it out from there. Whatever the results of the games are following this strategy, who cares. Let the Cards and Barves worry about it. Phils need to simply worry about themselves and getting into the postseason healthy and ready to win a ring.

    • Posts: 2993 Chuck A.

      Avatar of Chuck A.

      If this was a Facebook post I would “like” it.

  • Posts: 993 betasigmadeltashag

    Avatar of betasigmadeltashag

    I would much rather see the Phillies play well hit the ball hard and let the game play itself out. They are going to have two days off after this series so you do not want to rest them too much. But I do not want to see 120 pitches from any of the starters, Which I know will not happen, I also think they have to get some what a role for the bull pen. I know all of you have given up on Bastardo, but I am the eternal optomist, that he will bounce back, I think this year he may become the loogy for the playoffs. Which means there has to be a eighth inning guy, is it going to be LIdge, or a combination on Stutes and Worley kendrick? Those are the bigger questions that need to be answered in the next three games. And unlike starters you need to keep the pen sharp, and with two days off, the key arms in the pen need to pitch at least one inning two out of the next three days

  • Posts: 0 Greg

    ALWAYS play to win. Never play to your opponent. Talking about whether they should or not and cataloging through scenarios is our job.

  • Posts: 0 BART SHART

    First, play to win. Second, rest those players that are beat up- like Utley for the entire series, Polanco (six innings per game) Rollins (six innings per game) Howard (six innings per game),
    Pence (six innings per game).

    Give Pete Orr plenty of playing time, as he could be an asset on this squad in the post season. Study Bastardo and perhaps rest him. Cut John Bowker (he stinks), No more ;than six innings per starter unless it is really close and the starter is pitching really well. The bullpen needs some action.

    Pray for the players to regain their edge.

  • Posts: 0 Greg F.

    Let’s be clear: conversation about whether the Phils or any team similarly situated should do anything other than play hard to win occurs only among fans. This conversation does not occur in the clubhouse among players, manager and coaches. Charlie Manuel will bend over backward to NOT do things that will even remotely have the appearance of playing favorites or construed as picking opponents. The criticism that would be directed to Manuel in that instance would be overwhelming and justified.

  • Posts: 2993 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    Speaking of Bastardo, someone on TV yesterday (Missanelli maybe?? I can’t remember) said that the plan for Joe Savery was for him to go to Clearwater but be “available” just in case…

    So it sounds like they are as concerned about Bastardo as we all are.

  • Posts: 0 Nick W.

    You have to play hard, knock the braves out. I would much rather face the Cardinals in the NLDS than the Braves. The Cardinals may have wont he season series, but 2 of those games were before we had Pence when we were scoring 1 or even no runs in a week. This past series we just clinched and were resting a lot as well.

    I think the series numbers are a little skewed then in fact.

  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    The only scenario I can see that Charlie should do now, as opposed to a month ago, is pull a starting pitcher after seven innings with a lead as opposed to letting him run up his pitch count. Thats it. Everything stays the same. Play to win (insert Herm Edwards track here). I thinks it insults the competitive integrity of the game a bit when you throw your Grapefruit League lineup out there in a game of importance. Plus, I think its just plain bad karma. Haven’t they all had enough rest?

    The Dipsy

    • Posts: 0 Don M

      I think when you look at the serverity of injuries this year to our core players… there is no such thing as “enough rest” … Polanco, Utley, Howard, Pence will be playing in pain for the rest of the year . I don’t know that Rollins is 100% ? .. etc ….

      I’d rather these guys be fresh for the games that matter … and those games aren’t being played tonight, tomrw, and Wed … they’ start this coming weekend.. There is a difference between losing on purpose, and resting key players … i don’t think the Phillies have or will lose on purpose, but I don’t believe they care about winning any of these games all that much. … besides for the win total (which who really cares about???) they have nothing to play for until game 1 of the NLDS and extra rest would likely help us in that series

  • Posts: 0 800811

    The Diamondbacks are clearly better than St. Louis. You don’t mention that they’d run out Cy Young candidate and 20-game winner Ian Kennedy, followed by 16-game winner and owner of a 3.43 ERA Daniel Hudson…and Joe Saunders with 12 wibs and a 3.58 ERA… And their closer is JJ Putz, who has 41, and has not blown a save since the All Star break. St. Louis’ closer, Jason Motte, is terrible. Add Justin Upton’s bat, and yeah…..bring on St. Louis!!!

    • Posts: 2993 Chuck A.

      Avatar of Chuck A.

      I’d rather see STL first, followed by MIL and ARI. The Diamondbacks could definitely be the sleeper of the year.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    I think i’d rather face a team in the playoffs that just hung on… instead of having to face a red-hot and sky-high with confidence St. Louis Cardinals team ..

    on paper.. the best matchup for the Phillies right now is Arizona in my opinion

  • Posts: 1 BaseballObserver

    Avatar of BaseballObserver

    Don’t buy into all of this strategy planning. I have already had flashes of ’64 this year with all of the juggling of lineups and accompanying loss streak. Charlie should just do what the great teams do – try to win every game by running your best team out there and keeping it out there until the contest is no longer in doubt. When they start screwing with what worked, disaster follows.

  • Posts: 1190 Manny

    Avatar of Manny

    I agree with Publius. We worry about our guys; finding that delicate balance between giving the major players some playing time and resting them.

    I’d be happy with an NLDS match-up against the Cardinals or Diamondbacks. Yea, sure, if the Cards win the WC they’ll be red-hot —but at the same time that may even help ramp up our team’s focus going into the playoffs and, knowing how we lost to them in the regular season, we’ll avoid taking anything for granted.

    Plus, WE HATE THE BRAVES, right? Getting them out of the playoffs would make this rivalry even more entertaining for sports fans of both teams. Also, there’s this tiny little benchmark called 100 FREAKING WINS and I’m pretty damn sure that our guys want to finish this season by getting there –or, hopefully, surpassing that mark.

  • Posts: 0 NYCphan

    Would people really be happy to see the Phils drop two or three games in the Braves series after just barely coming out of an 8-game slump? I wouldn’t! My hopes are to see the Phils DOMINATE the Braves and go into a series with the Cards with a full head of steam. I have faith that if playing to their capabilities, the Phils would have the edge in that matchup. Who knows…if the Braves snuck into the playoffs after all, maybe the emotional high that that this engendered would revive them and then they’d kill us in the NLCS. People should be careful what they wish for.

  • Posts: 0 BART SHART

    I love the Phillies. I have rooted for them zealously for over 50 years. What I am going to do is enjoy the playoffs. I worried last night, all last week, but it got me nowhere. IF they lose out early, I will likely cuss, not sleep well for an evening, and wake up still a fan, still loving my Phillies. I loved them when they were putrid and when they were the cream of baseball.
    I want them to win and will be chewing my nails and hollering at the television. But win, or lose I am grateful that I have such a colorful team to root for and fellow fans to bicker with and console.

    But, despite it all right now, my money is on the Phils to become World Champions again. It is gonna happen, I believe it.

  • Posts: 0 Jonathan

    The Phils earned home field advantage for a reason and have the edge of home field for the WS if they can hold down the fort. The Phils should play the Braves like they want to win each one and ride the momentum straight through the NLDS and NLCS, no matter who they play.

  • Avatar of The Original Chuck P

    My friend and I were debating this today…

    If the Cardinals beat out the Braves, we get them in a 5 game series. If the Braves beat out the Cardinals, we get either the Brewers or the D’Backs in a 5 game series. Truthfully, I think that I’d rather have the Cardinals than the Brewers but the Cardinals aren’t a push-over, by any means. The D’Backs aren’t a team to sleep on, either. Like someone else mentioned, it’s going to be hard for the Cardinals or the Braves to set up their rotation (Hudson is scheduled to pitch Weds for the Braves, at this point) so I’d like to see both of them have to play in a 163rd game…

  • Avatar of The Original Chuck P

    Regardless, you play to win… losing on purpose sends the wrong message (like you’re scared). This team is not scared of anyone, trust me. They’ll play to win… they’ll play to demoralize the Braves BUT they will be on a pitch count and under a microscope so anything can happen.

  • Posts: 0 Mike

    Everyone is talking like the cardinals are going to sweep their series. The astros may stink, but they always play hard and I don’t know if a sweep for the cardinals is something that can be assumed.

  • Posts: 10 LuckyNucky

    Avatar of LuckyNucky

    This isn’t a fair topic for the world to know what the Phillies will do….

    6 inning and out…

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