July 19, 2013
By Nick Tricome
A World Series title, back-to-back National League pennants and five straight division titles.
The Philadelphia Phillies have been one of the most successful franchise in Major League Baseball over the past few years. But after missing the playoffs last year and having some core, yet aging, players in the final year of their contracts this season, 2013 could very well be the Phillies' last shot at October for a while.
The first half of the season has had its up and downs and ended with the Phillies at the .500 mark, but now they have to take full advantage of the second half to make one last run to the postseason.
It won't be easy.
The Phillies (48-48) are currently third in the NL East, 5.5 games back of the second place Washington Nationals (48-47) and 6.5 back of the first place Atlanta Braves (54-41).
They are now without their power-hitting first baseman Ryan Howard (torn meniscus) and their consistent leadoff hitter Ben Revere (broken foot) for at least six weeks.
They have 10 games left to play--all on the road-- before the trade deadline, with series against the division rival New York Mets, the NL Central leading St. Louis Cardinals and the American League Central leading Detroit Tigers, plus one game to start a series with the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants.
How the Phillies fare over this road trip will likely determine the fate of players like Michael Young, Jonathan Papelbon, Cliff Lee, Carlos Ruiz and Chase Utley.
Win the majority of the 10 games and these players likely stay in red pinstripes for at least the rest of the season. Lose and it could mean that fan favorites and long-time Phillies get sent to new teams.
Say the Phillies do well over the next 10 games, the road only gets tougher from there.
They'll have 28 more games against teams that currently have a record over .500 after July 31, 22 of them are against the Nationals or the Braves.
Meanwhile, Washington has just 24 game against teams over .500 and Atlanta has only 19 entering the second half.
Should either the Nats or the Braves get hot, they'll have, at least on paper, a better chance of keeping their hot-streak going against weaker teams, effectively sinking the Phillies in the process.
However, the Phillies could very well do the same to Atlanta or Washington with the combined 22 divisional games left on the schedule.
And it's not like the Phillies have had trouble against their division opponents either.
The Phillies went 24-14 against NL East teams in the first half and they will definitely need to keep that success going, not just against Atlanta and Washington, but New York and Miami too.
The first half had its struggles, but now the Phillies need everything to click.
They need their bats to show up.
They need their rotation to put up zeroes.
They need what has been a lackluster bullpen to answer the call and start sustaining leads.
This could be the last year the Phillies have a shot at the postseason before hitting the reset button.
It could be the last year we see Utley and Ruiz wear a Phillies uniform and the last we see Charlie Manuel as manager.
This is it for the Phillies that fans have come to know since that first divsion title in 2007, this team should make every effort at one last hoorah.
(Image from Philly.com)