The biggest series of the season kicks off tonight at The Bank, as the second-place Bravos come to town. And, the Phils are perfectly set up for the stretch run.
After a quick tweak of the rotation last week, the Phillies will now have the “Big Three” lined up to pitch all six remaining games against Atlanta, starting with Cole Hamels against Jair Jurrjens tonight.
What’s really amazing is that the Phillies, despite all their ridiculous issues throughout the year (a myriad of injuries, a faulty bullpen, having to play career minor leaguers in key roles), they are on pace for–get this–the franchise’s best record since 1977! Yes, at this pace, this team will have the best Phillies record in a 33-year span that includes both of the team’s World Series titles. Pretty amazing, if you think about it.
The Phils now have the best record in the NL by 3 games over Atlanta and FIVE games over each of the other two division leaders. Finishing with the best record in the NL could be monumental for them this year for two reasons:
(1) They will assure themselves homefield advantage in any playoff series, including the World Series (thank you, Brian McCann). This is important because the Phillies have been so incredibly good at home during the past two World Series runs that it really manifests itself as a nice advantage. Furthermore, pretty much all of other potential playoff teams in the NL (Atlanta, Colorado, San Diego, San Francisco, and Cincinnati) are disproportionally good at home, so homefield could make a big difference in the NL playoffs.
(2) They will get to choose the NLDS with the extra off-day. This one is actually gigantic for the Phils, the way they are constructed right now. If they are able to take the 8-day, 5-game series in the NLDS, they can assure themselves of playing every Division Series game with either Halladay, Hamels, or Oswalt as their starting pitcher. And, even though a team like San Fran can also throw a hefty three guys, no one has horses like we have horses right now.
One other note of interest–apparently, Jayson Werth is poised to hire Scott Boras as his agent. If this is true, I think it’s safe to say that Dominic Brown and Raul Ibanez will be the Phillies corner-outfielders next year. My man crush aside, I think that that’s probably best for long-term future of the organization anyway. Jayson’s next contract will probably be far more than he’s actually “werth,” and Dom Brown is ready.