Northeast Times

Phillies remain strong as postseason approaches

The Phil­lies find them­selves in a rather un­usu­al — and po­ten­tially sticky — situ­ation at the mo­ment. 

With 48 games left to play, fol­low­ing their series win over the San Fran­cisco Gi­ants this past week­end, the Phil­lies sit atop the Na­tion­al League East stand­ings with a 74-40 re­cord. 

That’s good enough for an 8.5 game lead on the At­lanta Braves, the next best team in the di­vi­sion, and a com­fort­able lead over the next best team in all of base­ball. 

So … how do you ap­proach the next sev­en weeks?

True, there are in­jur­ies that could be giv­en time to heal. 

There are both pitch­ers and po­s­i­tion play­ers that could prob­ably be­ne­fit from some ex­tra time off as well. 

But … why?

Why take the foot off the gas now?

After all, these guys are sup­posed to be built to handle a full sea­son of base­ball — that’s what they are get­ting paid to do. And once they are in the play­offs, every team is ba­sic­ally run­ning on pure ad­ren­aline at that point any­way. 

So why give them time off now and po­ten­tially dis­rupt their flow both in­di­vidu­ally and as a unit?

Wouldn’t it be bet­ter to just keep press­ing and press­ing un­til that “Ma­gic Num­ber” — the com­bined num­ber of Phil­lies wins and Braves losses needed for the Phil­lies to math­em­at­ic­ally make the play­offs — rests at zero?

Epic col­lapses do hap­pen, after all. 

But, if you can get your guys some ex­tra rest without los­ing their in­tens­ity or per­form­ance level, then you can really hit the ground run­ning when Oc­to­ber comes around. 

See why this can de­vel­op in­to such a sticky situ­ation?

That’s the ma­jor is­sue fa­cing man­ager Charlie Manuel and his staff at the mo­ment. 

True, they do have some in­jur­ies. 

Pla­cido Po­lanco is banged up and Chase Ut­ley has looked great but has been get­ting ex­tra time off since his re­turn from the dis­abled list. 

Roy Os­walt fi­nally made it back on Sunday but the Phils are still without Jose Contreras in the bull­pen as well as Joe Blan­ton in the start­ing ro­ta­tion. 

Then you also have the ad­di­tion of Hunter Pence and get­ting him in­to a rhythm with the rest of his team­mates. 

He has looked sol­id in his first few weeks here, but he is play­ing in a new ball­park, so the more work he gets now, the bet­ter off he will be when it comes time to play un­der those play­off spot­lights. 

It will be in­ter­est­ing to see what Manuel and his in­ner circle de­cide to do over the next few weeks, be­cause it is def­in­itely a dif­fi­cult bal­an­cing act to per­form.

The Phil­lies have not had such a big lead to rest on in any of the last few sea­sons either. The last two sea­sons they fin­ished with a six-game di­vi­sion lead and back in 2008, when they won the World Series, they had just a three-game di­vi­sion lead when the reg­u­lar sea­son wrapped up. 

With teams that close, there was no op­tion of tak­ing time off. 

Whatever Manuel’s de­cision might be, the in­ten­tion is the same: Get this team ready to win when the play­offs be­gin, be­cause reg­u­lar-sea­son stand­ings mean noth­ing at that point. 

Something tells me that guys like Ut­ley, Roy Hal­laday and Cole Hamels are not look­ing for time off at this point, either. ••

Colum­nist Matt God­frey can be reached at mgod­frey@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at mgodfrey@bsmphilly.com.

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