With a 35-21 record since the All-Star break, the Phillies have finally gotten over the .500 mark at 72-71. With 19 games left to play, they are a mere three games behind the Cardinals for the elusive second wild-card berth in the National League.
With Jimmy Rollins playing like a superhero, Kyle Kendrick pitching like a fourth ace, and the lineup and bullpen rounding into form, the Phillies are at their strongest at the most important time of the year. And with a fairly easy upcoming schedule pitting them against the Astros and Mets, the Phils could realistically enter the stretch-run on very solid footing.
Yet… there is something unsettling about this weekend’s four-game set with the Astros.
I don’t usually lend much credence to stats against a specific team, because “team” is an evolving term. The Astros of 2005 are not the Astros of 2009. David Bell‘s numbers against Brandon Backe have no bearing on how Chase Utley and the rest of this current Phillies squad will fare against Bud Norris.
Having said that, allow me to briefly throw numbers out of the window and admit that I am completely and utterly terrified of the Astros heading into this crucial series, whether or not they’re 12-45 since the All-Star break.
Late-season meetings with the Astros conjure up horrific memories of yesteryear, when the playoff-hopeful Phillies hurt their cause by losing, often in dramatic fashion, to Houston teams. On paper, the Phillies should throttle Houston. But the Astros shouldn’t be slept on, and the Phils have played so poorly against the Astros late in recent years that splitting the series or losing it probably won’t come as a surprise to most fans.