It’s been a season of extremes for the 80-win Phillies, who completed a three-game sweep of the Mets yesterday. For the Phils to reach their post-season goal, fortune must shine upon the pitching staff, and teams out of the hunt must play for pride.
There may never be another Phillies team like the 2007 version, with their evenly outrageous pitching and hitting. Part of it is the park, but most of it is something else. Collective offensive OPS: .814. That’s higher than Ryan Zimmerman, Freddy Sanchez, Dan Uggla, Andre Eithier, Carlos Delgado and Andruw Jones, just to name a few. League average is .755. The closest to average on the Phillies are Shane Victorino, with .777, and Carlos Ruiz, with .735. All that offense has led to a league-best 5.50 runs per game. League average is 4.67.
Then there’s the pitching, the opposite extreme. They’ve allowed 5.15 runs-per-game. Opponents are slugging .461. It’s like facing nine Adam LaRoches a game.
With the scheduled return of Cole Hamels Tuesday, the rotation figures to get stronger for the final 13. The bullpen is a different story. It honestly boils down to dumb luck whether the Phillies’ bullpen can bridge the gap to Brett Myers, not that it's a stone-cold lock to assume Myers can nail down saves. Geoff Geary has done a better job since his last call-up, you say? Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes. J.C. Romero has been a solid situational addition and can pitch the late innings. The rest of the veterans are out of gas. Guys like Antonio Alfonseca, Jose Mesa and reinjured set-up man Tom Gordon figure to get through innings unscathed only by accident.
We’ve reached the point when readers are discussing the Padres’ schedule as much as the Phillies. The Pads finish up with Pittsburgh and Colorado at home, followed by San Francisco and Milwaukee on the road.
Pittsburgh is a tough draw. I like them as much as any team in the weak NL Central. Since August 1, the Buccos are actually tied with the Red Sox for the most runs among all major league teams (262). Since then, the Pirates have rattled off the most victories in the division (24-21), followed by the Reds (23-19), Cubs (22-23), Cardinals (20-25), Astros (19-24) and Brewers (18-23). Tonight’s pitching matchup of John van Benschoten and Jack Cassell is anyone’s guess. The Padres then face Tom Gorzalanny, Ian Snell and Matt Morris later in the series.
Meanwhile, the Phillies draw the injury-depleted Cardinals. Coming off the sweep in New York, it’s difficult to call this one on the road. The pattern suggests the Phils will drop two-of-three. Tuesday’s starter hasn’t been announced by St. Louis, a team that probably fell out of the race for good this weekend. It’s hard to know which way a team in their situation will go: into the tank, or unburdened and inspired?
Baseball Prospectus odds: Chance of Wild Card: 29.0. Chance of Division: 5.3. The Wild Card winner is in line to finish with 88.8 wins. A 9-4 finish will give the Phillies 89, 10-3 the even 90. Both totals are asking a lot.