As Philadelphia's Magic Number Shrinks, Florida and Atlanta's Hopes Disappear

Scott EisenlohrAnalyst ISeptember 15, 2009

NEW YORK - AUGUST 23:  Pedro Martinez #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches against The New York Mets during their game on August 23, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Monday was an off day for the Philadelphia Phillies, their last of the season.

Sunday's exciting doubleheader sweep of New York not only mathematically eliminated the Mets, it gave the Phillies a 6 1/2 game lead over the Florida Marlins in the National League East, reducing the Phillies magic number to 14.

That is a combination of 14 wins by the Phillies or 14 losses by the Marlins, but more likely a combination of the two. It likely will not happen for about two weeks, but it could happen sooner.

While the Phillies open up a three-game set vs. Washington, Florida heads to St. Louis and the Mets play at Atlanta.

Following the home series against the Nationals, the Phillies travel to Atlanta and Florida.

Talk about taking care of business yourself.

Going into the Mets series, I said the Phillies had to win three out of four, which they did, highlighted by Pedro Martinez's eight inning shutout of the Mets in a 1-0 win.

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There is no reason the Phillies should not sweep the Nationals, but figure the Nationals win one. Ryan Madson or Brad Lidge should blow at least one lead.

The Phillies then can take care of Atlanta, but the games in Florida have traditionally been tough for the Phillies.

But let's start with tonight: Cliff Lee (13-11) faces Garret Mock (3-7). Lee has to pitch into the seventh or eighth inning to give the bullpen a rest. Pencil in a win for the Phillies.

All season long, despite bullpen problems, closer problems, prolonged slumps and more, the Phillies have kept pace in front of the NL East. Some say they should have had a larger lead, but once again, the only team that is playing out of their mind is the Yankees.

Isn't that the way baseball is supposed to be?

Destiny is in the Phillies' hands. By next weekend, they could be NL East champs for the third year in a row.

There will be bumps along the way, and for whatever reason, it might not happen next weekend.

Shortly after that, though, it should happen. It would help to get Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, or Raul Ibanez to get hot again. Ibanez is the current hottest Phillies hitter.

Sweep the Nats and then two or three from the Braves and Marlins, and things will be fine.

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