Philadelphia Phillies Starting to Hit Their Stride During Playoff Push

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Philadelphia Phillies Starting to Hit Their Stride During Playoff Push

Over the past few weeks, the Phillies have been winning in a variety of ways. Whether it's a big win, a late comeback, a close pitchers' duel, or just a game won on smart baseball like the one they played Saturday night against the Brewers, they're getting the job done.

That's what we're used to seeing from the Phillies, but it had been a rarity for a lot of the 2010 season. This didn't look like a championship-quality team only a month or so ago, but now they look like a group that could definitely make a push.

As the Phillies usually do under Charlie Manuel, they've begun hitting their stride in the final month or so of the season and are now poised to undo all the mistakes they made early on in the season and overtake the Atlanta Braves for first place in the NL East.

All they need is for the Braves to trip up just once. But to the Braves' credit, they're holding strong when they need to and keep fending off what must seem like an incredibly pesky Phillies team.

But, the Phils know all they can do is keep winning and hope for the best, and that's exactly what they did Saturday night.

Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard each had a solo home run, and Jimmy Rollins scored a run, but the best play came on a Placido Polanco sac fly in the bottom of the seventh inning.

With the bases loaded, Polanco hit a fly ball about midway into left field. Carlos Ruiz was on third and, needless to say, he's not the fastest guy on the team. But he decided from the get-go he was going to test Ryan Braun's arm and took off.

The throw came in from Braun, it looked to be on line, but bounced behind Ruiz and right past Jonathan Lucroy to the backstop. Ruiz slid over home plate and scored. The Brewers' pitcher, Zach Braddock, was lined up on the first base side of the plate and had to hustle to the ball, which had hit the backstop on the third base side.

Wilson Valdez, who had tagged up from second and moved to third, immediately took for home plate as soon as he saw the ball hit the backstop. It was a close play, but Valdez was safe at home and put the Phils up for good.

They went on to win 5-4, keep a three-game advantage in the wild card standings, and stay only one game behind the Braves in the division.

Smart plays like the one made by Valdez can be the difference between a playoff team and a World Series champion.

The Phils now seem to be making those plays more often than not, and could parlay some good late-season baseball into another late-October appearance.

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