With the Phillies regular season coming to close on Sunday, they are looking at continuing to play well into October. As we look back at what brought them to this point, a point they barley (but just as entertainingly) reached last year, we see several names surface again and again. These same names will be what drives this old Philadelphia team in the playoffs. We see the strengths of this team match well with their weaknesses. The Phillies offense has risen to the occasion many times in these last weeks. The 3 Pack (Howard, Utley, and a mix match between Rollins and Burrell) have had clutch hits and glorious moments that will be remembered as the reason they got where they are. Ryan Howard is, to say the least, a power house. His game deciding homers are anything but seldom and bleak. He sure has pick up the bar since his early struggles. A note on Shane Victorino and Greg Dobbs is also needed to complete the strengths of this offense. When Victorino is on base, a pitcher has no prayer, for whatever base he is, he will be at the next in the matter of a few pitches. He is more than a speed demon. Dobbs also, although mainly only used for pinch hits, attacks every ball with a power swing. He sure has come in to decide games for this club. While looking at this key offense, one can't help but notice the weakness they encounter. Especially with going into the post season, they cannot accept how some players are winding down at the plate. Jayson Werth is usually a key player in the game, but lately we have seen "K" down his columns in the score book for entire games. With this though, he seems to be taking it and working to improve. Ruiz is an ace at catching, but a usual disappointment at batting. He has had his moments of glory with clutch hits and swings of power, but more often then not, we see a double play. To give him credit, we do not see many strike outs. If we journey down to see the Phillies defense, we see great strives. Howard, who coudn't control a simple grounder in April or May, now gets 90 MPH Frozen ropes on diving catches. Utley has now his fair share of honored catches. Burrell also seems to be picking up slightly in this important ending. We again see slowing by several players. I no longer see the amazing grabs by Rollins, or the "successful" diving catches by Werth. Not to say they are not trying, but the results do not match as they did in June or July.
Pitching will be a determining factor when this team goes to battle for a pennant. Happ, although just a rookie, is looking to be one of the strongest on this team. Starting him in key games may be what they need. Hamels is still on fire, just a weaker flame. He no long has the eight to nine innings we liked to see earlier. Moyer is, for lack of a better term, a crafty veteran. He throws slower, but accurate. To see him at the mound, the Phillies feel secure and the oppent is unaware of what they are facing. Since picking up Blanton, we have seen an obvious addition. He adds something different to the roation, although necer making it easy, he finds his way out. Myers might need another trip to AAA. After his last two starts, it is seen that again he has slowed. It may be a scare to see him pitching in Post season. The bull pen adds success to where ever they need it. Madson has great pitches that end in an ace pitching. Romero always makes trouble when he is at the mound, but gets out of it. He will also let people on, but gets them off. Durbin has wound down to much now. He can not continue like he is. Eyre was a great pick up, filling in for where Durbin fails. Need I mention Lidge? Lights out. Period.
The Phillies management deserves much credit. If the Phillies make the World Series, or even close, Charlie Manuel will forever be a legend in Philadelphia. He has transformed so much in this ball park it is mind boggling. Lopes adds much "spunk" to the field causing for moments we need to see.
The only spots that we might need to worry about in October is the Phillies past record. The sweep in 2007 (vs. Rockies) is something they need to stay as far away from to have any confidence for success. The bitter Mets rival also takes them. If it is Phillies-Mets for a pennant (Wild card vs. NL East) we will see baseball like we have never seen. This hot rival will turn red with fire. It will just add to the Phillies drive. It will not longer just be "Win for the Pennant" it could now be "Win to beat the Mets"
Looking good is where they are, continuing to play good is where they need to stay. Along with all of Philadelphia, we root for the Phillies in this post season. We see their strengths and fight on their weaknesses. We excpet the best and accept no less. This is 2008 and You Gotta Believe!