For the Phillies, the playoffs begin tonight against a tough and familiar September foe.
After a brief pause, the Phillies and their legion return to Citizens Bank Park after taking symbolic pause to digest the magnitude of the situation. The next break from baseball will either last until pitchers and catchers report in late February, or a day or two after the regular season to regroup for the post-season.
Impossibly, the Phillies find themselves in a virtual neck-and-neck tie for the right to become the very last survivor to jump aboard the playoff vessel. They held a share of the Wild Card lead for a day, but find themselves 0.5 back after last night’s West Coast action with 10 games remaining.
The Marlins shouldn’t be taken lightly. After the Phils, they’re next in line in the Wild Card pecking order and have been nipping at their heels since the All-Star break. They’re only chance at making it is to rout the Phils, who the play six more times. This is a dangerous series.
Ricky Nolasco (11-9, 4.56 ERA) starts tonight’s opener for Florida. His only start against the Phils came July 28, and he threw 7 1-3 scoreless innings in a 4-1 win.
The Phillies counter with emerging ace Cole Hamels (8-8, 4.21), who came within eight outs of a no-hiter in Saturday's 7-2 win at Houston. Hamels is 1-1 with a 3.67 ERA in two starts against the Marlins.
If Shane Victorino’s wrist is healthy enough to play, his offensive stats don’t show it. Victorino was 5-for-38 entering Wednesday's game, dropping his average 18 points to .279. The alternatives would be Michael Bourn or Chris Roberson manning center field. Manager Charlie Manuel told MLB.com that he’s concerned.
"I talk to him a lot about it," he said. "He's fine, but it’s bothering him. I want to know how bad it is, then I'll determine whether he's in there. I want him playing. We have a short number of games and I want him playing."
This and that
-- Joe Thurston has not taken an at bat since Sept. 4’s failed bunt attempt.
-- The Phillies may have a mediocre record at home, but it’s largely because of their dismal showing in their home-loaded start to their season. The Phillies are 38-39 at home, but 16-10 in their last 26 home games.