With the best record in baseball at the All Star Break, the Phillies have all the momentum heading into the second half of the season.
A great pitching staff and a frustrating, but productive offense have given Philadelphia a 57-34 record and a 3.5 game lead in the NL East.
However, to continue their success in the second half a few more things have to go their way in order to claim their fifth consecutive division title and start a run towards a return trip to the World Series.
Will the real Raul Ibanez please stand up?
Will Ibanez continue his 6 RBI performance from Sunday or will he revert back to his old ways of looking lost at the plate for extended periods of time?
This question needs to be answered rather soon with the trade deadline only twenty days away.
If Ibanez is starting to find his groove in time for the second half, then the Phillies will finally have a bat behind Howard that can drive in runs on a consistent basis.
If not, Amaro will surely need to be on the phone looking for a right handed option to spell the aging left fielder.
Closer Ryan Madson should be back shortly after the break when he completes his rehab assignments.
His return is good timing for a bullpen that is relying on young and inexperienced arms to get the job done over the last two weeks.
Jose Contreras does not look like he will be returning any time soon due to the fact that he is scheduled to visit a surgical specialist.
The X factor in all of this is Brad Lidge.
Lidge is very close to making his 2011 debut and it will be interesting to see what his role will be with this team for the remainder of the season.
Madson is the closer when healthy and Bastardo has nailed down the set up man role.
Where does that leave Lidge other than part time set up man or seventh inning reliever along with rookie Michael Stutes?
Can Lidge be relied upon to fulfill any other role than the one he has become accustomed to over the course of his career?
The most popular name in trade circles concerning the Phillies is Oakland's Josh Willingham.
Willingham is a cheap right handed option that Amaro could take a look at.
However, remember this is Amaro we're dealing with who has become the master of pulling out a deal no one would think would happen. See Cliff Lee.
Don't be surprised if Amaro goes to the minor league well again to improve the major league club.
Another name that is being circulated is San Diego reliever Heath Bell.
This would be an option if the health of the bullpen does not improve between now and the deadline.
However, Bell is a longshot to be a trade target for the Phillies.
In order to maintain their lead over the Atlanta Braves, the Phillies need to capitalize on series victories.
The Braves are not going to go away any time soon in the division race.
Despite being up by 3.5 games, the Phillies need to maintain at least a .600 winning percentage over the final 71 games to hold off the streaky Braves.
With that hypothetical percentage in mind, it would mean that the Phils would need to go 42-29 after the break to reach 99 wins and win their fifth straight division title.
Its not out of the question that it would take anywhere from 94-99 wins to take the NL East. The Phillies have the inside track to that mark, but need to maintain a healthy margin above the .500 mark to achieve it.
Keep in mind that this club is usually a second half team, which is a scary thought considering they have already approached 60 wins at the break.
If the Phillies find themselves with a comfortable lead at any point in September, the intensity needs to remain in place in order for their success to carry over into October.
I believe that part of their playoff exit against San Francisco can be attributed to clinching the division too early.
I know they swept the Reds in the division series, but it was on the strength of their pitching with minimal impact from their offense as a whole.
This lethargic offense carried over to the Giants series and led to their elimination.
Maybe if they were involved in a division race into the final week of the season, their offense would have still remained in a groove heading into the postseason, where it could have been built upon to combine with their stout pitching staff.
Perhaps, that's what is needed this season for postseason success,
The pitching will be there, its just a matter of whether or not the offense will click when the time comes.