One more win or a Mets loss would give the Phillies their second straight National League East title. At worst, they’ve clinched a tie. They’ve reached 90 wins for the first time since 1993.
Behind Ryan Howard’s three-run homer and RBI-double, and Chase Utley’s base-clearing double, the Phillies unloaded for seven runs off Collin Balester in the first two innings en route to an 8-4 win. The Phils’ early outburst flashed on the scoreboard two hours north at Shea Stadium, where the Mets trailed all night and lost 6-1 to Chris Volstad and the Marlins.
The Mets, who also fell a game behind the victorious Brewers in the Wild Card race, play at 1 p.m. this afternoon, so it’s possible the division could belong to the Phils before the first pitch is even thrown in Philadelphia. With their playoff hopes hanging by a thread, Johan Santana pitches on short rest. Tough right-hander Ricky Nolasco goes for Florida. Meanwhile, left-handers duel in Philly, where Jamie Moyer goes for his 16th win against emerging southpaw John Lannan.
Beerleaguer: An unofficial headcount says Ryan Howard’s mug is everywhere this morning. If you subscribe to the belief that an MVP needs to come from a playoff contender, than Howard is your guy should the Phils wrap of the division. Make it 32 RBIs and 11 homers in a lights-out September. Last night’s highlight reel will solidify his case, just as long as those highlights don’t include his brutal 5th inning error. My sense is that voters who might have been leaning toward all-around stud Albert Pujols might actually zero in on that error, Howard’s 19th of the season, and lean toward Pujols even more. It’s going to be another interesting vote involving a Phillie.
Last year, we had J-Roll’s infamous “We are the team to beat.” The 2008 catchphrase is more appropriate. “We’re a team of necessity” is how outfielder Jayson Werth described the Phils following their four-game sweep of Milwaukee. Let’s hope they don’t adhere to that rule too closely and drag this out any further.