Following the Dodgers' 9-3 loss to Arizona, the Phils have seized sole possession of the top spot in the National League Wild Card race with their 8-6 win over Florida. They go for the sweep this afternoon.
The season that was pronounced dead following the trade of Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle has officially been resurrected. The hopeless Phillies were 46-54 and well off-pace of the Wild Card leaders the day before their fire sale with New York. Since then, they’ve gone 35-19, the best mark in the National League. If the season ended today, they’d have their first post-season birth since 1993, only their second in 23 years.
The Phillies are playing amazing, inspired ball. They're scoring runs in bunches. Starting pitching has been phenomenal. Ryan Howard is the league's most valuable player. They’ve gone from pushover to legitimate powerhouse. They believe in themselves and their ability to win every single game. The Phils know they’re for real, and now they’re in the driver’s seat for the first time all season.
There’s a tough left-hander up ahead in Scott Olsen (12-8, 3.87 ERA), who stands in the way of a series sweep for Florida. The 22-year-old is 0-1 with a 2.78 ERA in his last three outings, with the loss coming to the Phillies on Sept. 8. The Phillies have been a little sluggish against lefties lately.
If the Phillies hold on, the late-season acquisition of today's pitcher Jamie Moyer (3-2, 3.79 ERA) could be considered a primary reason. The 43-year-old left-hander allowed one run, six hits and no walks in seven innings of a 4-1 victory over the Cubs on Tuesday. In addition to getting it done on the mound, Moyer has been an asset behind the scenes by helping young pitchers.
Jeff Conine was the second savvy veteran acquisition by Phillies GM Pat Gillick. Conine drove in three runs off the bench yesterday and is a .319 hitter with 16 RBIs this month.
In addition to Conine, backup catcher Carlos Ruiz drove in three runs. Jon Lieber pitched seven solid innings. Jimmy Rollins hit his 23rd homer, Shane Victorino and Chase Utley each went 4-for-5 and Ryan Howard drew two intentional walks.
With the victory, the 81-73 Phils have guaranteed at least a .500 season. Obviously, they're looking to finish a little better than that. They also climbed over .500 in games at home (40-39). Overall, they've won nine of 11.