With the Atlanta Braves coming into Philadelphia this week for a three-game series, the Phillies couldn’t have it set up any better.
On Monday evening the Phillies had a three-game lead over the Braves in the National League East and still had three games at Atlanta remaining on the schedule.
If Philadelphia wanted to lock up the N.L. East crown, this series would go a long way towards popping the champagne.
And that’s precisely why manager Charlie Manuel had his best three guys ready to take the mound.
Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt were all scheduled to face the Braves.
One quick sweep later and the Phillies can breathe easy with a six-game lead. Meanwhile, the Braves cling to a half-game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the Wild Card race.
A month ago Atlanta looked like they were in control of the division. A Hollywood ending was unfolding: a division title and playoff run in Bobby Cox’s final season as the manager of the Braves.
Except too many people discounted the ability and experience of the Phillies, if that’s even possible to do with a team that has represented the N.L. in the last two World Series, winning one of them.
Fast-forward and the Phillies have run off 10 straight wins and sit days away from clinching a playoff berth.
With Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt all doing their part to anchor a rotation that has quickly become the best in baseball, the Phillies have become favorite picks to reach the World Series again this fall and perhaps win their second title in three years.
As a preview to October and a hat tip to those predicting the Phillies will win it all, we look at six of the most important Phillies who will determine whether or not the city is crowned champions in 2010.