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At this point in the season for the Phillies, everything is important. Every pitch of every inning of every game is just as important as every pitch of every at-bat of every inning...well, you get the idea.
The Phillies have to win. Losing is not an option. They came into the season with higher than high expectations. With the team's pitching staff consisting of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, the team had a good shot of having at least three 20-game winners and at least a pitcher or two in contention for the Cy Young Award.
While the season has passed and not all initial predictions have occurred as thought, the Phillies have still made the playoffs once more and clinched the division yet again. However, the fun doesn't stop there.
What's worth noting here is that the Phillies still have control over who they play in the first round of the playoffs. Why, might you ask? It's simple, really. In the National League, the Atlanta Braves currently hold the top spot for the Wild Card. However, the Cardinals are only a game and a half behind, and the San Francisco Giants are just four games out. So why do the Phillies have control over this?
Well, it's because the Phillies end the season by playing the Braves for three games in Atlanta. Although the fact that the regular season ends for the Phillies on the road, they have been very successful away from Philly, going 46-29 outside of Citizens Bank Park. If the Phillies take two games out of the three or sweep them, then the Wild Card standings could change very quickly.
With the Cardinals lurking just behind the Braves, they stand a very good chance at taking the Wild Card away from Atlanta. If St. Louis remains behind Atlanta for the next week or so, then if we take two games from the Braves and the Cardinals win their series, then the Braves miss the playoffs. The opposite is also true: is the Braves defeat the Phillies and the Cardinals lose their series, then the Braves would win the Wild Card.
However, the question standing is this: would the Phillies rather play the Diamondbacks or the Cardinals in the first round? Seeing as the Cards won the four game series here at CBP, and the D'backs lost two of three to us here at home, I'd take the D'backs, which means that the Phillies would have to let Atlanta win the Wild Card at the end of the season if it boils down to that.
Is it cheap to give up like that? Yes. But if the Phillies want to win it all, the Cards would be their toughest potential opponent, and with the way things are looking right now, they could very likely face St. Louis in the first round. If they hadn't won the division (i.e. they would win the Wild Card), then they could be facing Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs, which might be better. But since they hold the number one seed, things aren't going to go like that, and the Phillies will have to deal with it.