As the Phillies are approaching the final month of the regular season, to this point, you have to consider the 2009 season a success.
Before Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Braves (8 P.M, Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN), the Phillies were 74-53, a respectable 21 games over .500. In contrast to years’ past, where the Phillies needed a tremendous September swing to conqure the NL East, this team will not need to do so. Being seven games up on the Braves (7.5 games up on the Marlins) with 35 games to play, the goal is obvious. If they Phillies can play virtually .500 baseball the rest of the way (18-17 or 17-18), they will have over 90 wins, which realistically will win them the NL East with some room to spare.
That’s a pretty big accomplishment considering the Phillies have played far better than that throughout the duration of the season, while dealing with injuries to two all-stars (Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez) along with having inconsistent pitching in the starting rotation and the bullpen for the better part of the 2009 regular season.
However, when September comes around, it’s a different breed of baseball. The level of play multiplies, to the point where really anything can happen. Fortunately, if one team knows this, it’s the Phillies, who have stolen the division title from the New York Mets two years in a row by coming back from large deficits. Unfortunately, that won’t stop other teams from playing the spoiler role that the Phillies have been accustomed to.
With that said, this next month starts a crucial stretch where the Phillies could see their post-season hopes skyrocket or vanish with a winning streak or a September swoon.
Important Games to Watch For
September 1-3 vs. San Francisco Giants: Could be a preview of the NLDS if the Giants beat out the Colorado Rockies for the wildcard or the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL West division crown.
September 11-13 vs. New York Mets: Even though the Mets are out of the playoff race and having their worst year of the past decade, one thing is clear. They are still the Phillies top rival. At this point of the season, nothing would make the Mets organization happier than harming the Phillies playoff chances.
September 18-20 at Atlanta Braves: A series on the road in September against the team who has the best chance to challenge the Phillies for the NL East title. The Braves will be looking to make up some ground on the Phillies and the Phillies will be looking for their final push down the strech that will ultimately send them to the playoffs. Sounds like a battle.
October 1-4 vs. Florida Marlins: This four games series could turn out to be the most important series of the entire season. It’s the final series of the regular season, and the Marlins are a dangerous team. Like the past two seasons, they are hanging in there for the divisional crown as the final month rolls around. They are young, they are inexperienced, but in September, that could help them just as much as that could hurt them. Some of the players on that team may not understand the magnitude of September baseball, in which they could be the perfect spoiler, as they will be facing a Phillies team who will facing the added element of pressure to defend a divison and World Series title.