A belated happy Fourth of July to everyone, and, with that, to the Philadelphia Phillies as well.
In their series finale against baseball's best team—the 52-32 Pittsburgh Pirates—on Thursday, the Phillies managed to take the series with a 6-4 victory.
The Phillies' bats supplied Cole Hamels with enough run support for him to earn his third win of the 2013 season, lowering his ERA to 4.38. The Phillies also handed Pirates superstar rookie pitcher Gerrit Cole his first major league loss.
It was a fantastic and much-needed morale boost for the Phillies, who now sit at 41-45, nine games back of the division-leading Atlanta Braves at 49-35.
The Phillies' upcoming weekend series against those Braves gives Philadelphia an opportunity to gain some ground in the NL East race. The two teams haven't faced off since the third game of the season.
A Phillies sweep, or even a series victory, won't be easy, with the Braves sending out their best starting arms to the mound in Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm and Kris Medlen. But it will definitely be possible for the Phillies to win all three games and gain some ground.
Here are five keys to the Phillies doing just that and making the NL East race much more interesting.