The Philadelphia Phillies are about to embark on their most daunting stretch of the season. As a result of schedule rearrangement in preparation for Hurricane Irene, the Phillies were unable to play the final two games in the series against the Florida Marlins. Now, the best team in the majors is forced to play 33 games during a 31-day span.
With a record of 83-46, the Phillies are nearing the century mark in victories with 33 attempts to win just 17 games. The journey will begin with a series against the Cincinnati Reds featuring a return to the mound for 13-game winner Cole Hamels. The Phillies will close their season with a series against the Atlanta Braves—in a series that could be pivotal in terms of the division race—who sit six games in back of the Phillies.
The Phillies have been playing mediocre baseball as of late going 6-6 in the last 12 games, which include four series against the Diamondbacks, Nationals and Mets. If you exclude the series against the Diamondbacks, who is the only winning team of the three, the Phillies are just 4-5 against the Mets and Nationals during the 12-game span. Both teams are a combined 13 games under .500.
The biggest challenge during the 33 games will come during a seven-day period, where the Phillies will play the National League's second- and third-best teams. The Phillies will play back-to-back series against the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers. The three-game Braves series will begin on Sept. 5, and the four-game Brewers series will follow beginning on Sept. 8. This will be a great test before the team goes into the playoffs. The Phillies need to come out the two series 4-3, anything worse may be a negative signal. Immediately after their tough test, the Phillies can catch a breather as they play a three-game series against the Houston Astros, who are the major league's worst team.
The end of the season will be filled with games against National League East opponents. The final three series of the season will be against the Washington Nationals, New York Mets and finally closing against the Atlanta Braves. The best scenario for the Phillies include already reaching the 100-game plateau and having the division wrapped up. That way the series against the Braves won't have as much significance.
The more riding on the series naturally means more pressure and a season finale series with a playoff atmosphere. Having to much on the line at season's end could result in the Phillies wearing out in the playoffs. The Phillies are not a young team and should go into the playoffs as refreshed as possible.
The Phillies have played well the entire season, and there does not seem to be a reason to suspect they will not continue to do so.
Going out on a limb, I predict the Phillies will go 19-14 during the final 33 games, bringing their season win tally to 102 wins and 60 losses and win the NL East Division.
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