The Philadelphia Phillies are making history. The team is nine games under .500, 9.5 games out of a wild card birth and 14 games out of first place. And yet, they are making room for people to jump on their bandwagon. After winning eight of 12 after the All-Star break and three out of four series, including a sweep of the Brewers in which every win came in a dramatic fashion, playoff talk about the Phils is starting to appear again in a big way. Never in the history of baseball has a team nine games under .500 been considered to be able to make a serious run for a playoff spot. But regardless of what kind of optimism you may have, the Phillies’ season only goes as far as this weekend series with the Braves takes them.
There are a few reasons why this weekend’s series with Atlanta is so important. The most obvious reason is Atlanta holds the final playoff spot in the NL. Sweeping the Braves is the easiest way to make up three games in the wildcard standings. And with Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and an improved Joe Blanton who is 1-0 with a 2.81 ERA while pitching 8 innings his past two starts probable to pitch this weekend, a sweep is not out of the question. But winning two out of three is a necessity if the Phils have any shot of making a run at postseason play.
This brings me to my second point. In order for the Phillies to have a realistic shot at making the playoffs, they would have to win at least 85 games. If they won two out of three games for the rest of the season, it would put them at 87 wins, and that might not even be enough for a playoff spot. The Phillies would have to play near-perfect baseball for the rest of the season in order to see October baseball in South Philly, and that would have to start this weekend
But the biggest reason why this weekend series is so important is because the team has to prove to ownership they have what it takes to make a run this year. The trade deadline is this Tuesday and this series against the Braves is the last chance the team has to show Ruben Amaro and the rest of the Phillies brass that key pieces shouldn’t be traded for the future. I’m not saying that if they sweep the Braves a trade or two might not happen, but if they win the first two games against Atlanta, any trade Amaro makes will be to improve the team this season, not just in the years to come. There are a lot of people in the Philadelphia tri-state area catching Phillies Pheaver right now. The team looks like it has it swagger back. But all of that will mean nothing if the Philles don’t take care of business at Turner Field this weekend