Two years ago, the Philadelphia Phillies were a fairly good team that benefitted from an epic collapse by the New York Mets to win the National League East during the last week of the season. They entered the post-season for the first time since the early 90s, and got swept away by the Colorado Rockies like any “happy-to-be-here” team.
Last year, the Phillies were a good team that benefited from (another) collapse by the New York Mets, won the NL East again, got hot in the playoffs and rode that to a World Series Championship.
This year, the Phils required no collapse from anyone – they were easily the best team in the NL East, taking over 1st place in May and never letting it go. This team has a veritable Murderers Row of a lineup and four high quality starters in Cole Hamels, JA Happ, and midseason acquisitions Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez. So, no problems right? Another trip to the WS and a meeting with the Yankees, Sox or Angels (or Tigers, I suppose to be fair)?
Maybe – maybe not. All their starters have had at times in the last couple of months looked unhittable – and at others seemed like they were throwing batting practice. But the biggest concern has to be in late relief. Last year’s Mr. Perfect Brad Lidge has blown a dozen saves – disturbing enough that manager Charlie Manuel has gone to others in times of need. That’s not the insecurity you need going into the playoffs.
Perhaps like last year, things will click into place – hitters will be clutch, pitchers will pitch the games of their lives (I’m talking about you, Joe Blanton) – the difference between success and going home in the playoffs is a thin thin line. Should be fun to watch.
Welcome to October!