With the calendar turning to August, it’s now officially the “Dog Days of Summer” for baseball teams. Just as the case has been the previous several years, the Philadelphia Phillies appear to be hitting their stride. Injured players return, the offense gains consistency and the pitching staff provides its brilliance. Last season they trailed the Atlanta Braves by as many as 7 1/2 games before mounting a remarkable comeback, one that took the Braves out of the division race almost as quickly as August turned into September.
This year will be a little different. The Phillies have suffered their fair share of injuries this season. Chase Utley has missed significant time, as has Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge, Jose Contreras and Shane Victorino. However, it appears all – with the exception of Contreras - will be back and able to help the team defend its division title yet again.
The Atlanta Braves are again the Phillies’ biggest threat, and once again Atlanta is a very formidable opponent. They went out at the deadline and acquired a player who fills multiple needs for them in Michael Bourn. Their pitching staff can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the game, and even after a horrid start to the season Dan Uggla is reminding people why Atlanta gave him $60 million.
However, the NL East is the Phillies division to lose. With a seven game lead (their largest of the season) and the team coming together, it appears nothing can stop them. But that’s a dangerous statement to make. Here’s what needs to happen in order to obtain the team’s goals for 2011...