Northeast Times

Looking to October for postseason showdowns

Three more weeks. 

There are just three more weeks un­til the reg­u­lar sea­son comes to an end and post­season base­ball is upon us.

So far, the Phil­lies’ path to yet an­oth­er Na­tion­al League East title has been any­thing but tor­tu­ous; it seems as if they’ve been the best team in all of base­ball since spring. 

Yet, there are al­ways obstacles that leap up between now and the Fall Clas­sic: Hit­ters fam­ous for hot Septem­bers, and in­fam­ous for cold Oc­to­bers.

Pitch­ers whose light­ning-rod arms turn to meatloaf at the worst pos­sible times. And, per­haps most troub­ling, me­diocre spoil­er teams who get lucky late in the sea­son, ap­palling the fans of re­spect­able ballclubs by dash­ing post­season dreams.

Still, with the siz­able lead they hold in the di­vi­sion, the Phil­lies — while un­doubtedly still play­ing to win every game — can start to break down their po­ten­tial post­season match­ups without guilt. 

In fact, they’ve faced two of the three likely teams in back-to-back series this week, with the series against the At­lanta Braves wrap­ping up yes­ter­day and the four-game series against the Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers start­ing today, Sept. 8. 

The third po­ten­tial match­up would be the Ari­zona Dia­mond­backs, who look sure to take the NL West crown. 

The Brew­ers prob­ably will be rep­res­ent­ing the NL Cent­ral while the Braves, who trail the Phil­lies in the East, are likely go­ing to win the Wild Card spot. 

Of those three teams, the Dia­mond­backs would be the Phils’ most prob­able first-round op­pon­ent be­cause, even though the Braves are the Wild Card team, rules state that you can­not face a team in your own di­vi­sion in the first round. 

Be­cause the Dia­mond­backs’ re­cord isn’t as good as the Brew­ers’, Ari­zona would face the Phil­lies in the first round. 

The Dia­mond­backs are hav­ing a Cinder­ella sea­son, out-du­el­ing the de­fend­ing cham­pi­on San Fran­cisco Gi­ants in the West Di­vi­sion.

In the short­er five-game series, each team prob­ably would util­ize four start­ing pitch­ers. Ob­vi­ously, that would be a good thing for the Phil­lies. 

Roy Hal­laday, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Os­walt could be ex­pec­ted to face Ari­zona’s Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hud­son, Joe Saun­ders and Josh Coll­menter. 

While Kennedy is be­ing men­tioned in the Cy Young race, the ad­vant­age here def­in­itely goes to the Phil­lies. 

The Phil­lies should hold the ad­vant­age of­fens­ively as well, with pure out­put and vet­er­an ex­per­i­ence head­ing in­to the post-sea­son. 

The Dia­mond­backs were widely con­sidered to be a few years out of con­ten­tion with Kirk Gib­son en­ter­ing his first full sea­son as man­ager this year, but they have been able to real­ize a con­sid­er­able level of suc­cess. The D-Backs def­in­itely should not be taken lightly, but the Phil­lies hold the ad­vant­age. 

If the Phil­lies end up play­ing the Brew­ers, however, things could turn out a lot dif­fer­ently. 

The Phil­lies’ pitch­ing staff still should out­shine that of the Brew­ers, but of­fens­ively, ar­gu­ments could be made for both sides hav­ing the su­per­i­or lineup. 

You know what the Phil­lies can do, but the Brew­ers have two le­git­im­ate can­did­ates for the NL’s Most Valu­able Play­er trophy this year in first base­man Prince Field­er and left­field­er Ry­an Braun.

They also have a sol­id sup­port­ing cast, much like the Phil­lies, that could put some runs to­geth­er. 

Should the Phil­lies get to the second round, they could run in­to the toughest pitch­ing staff aside from their own in the At­lanta Braves. 

We know what the Braves have; we have seen them more than a dozen times this sea­son already. 

The key for the Phil­lies in a series against At­lanta would be wheth­er their bull­pen can stand up, be­cause runs will be hard to come by in each of these games. 

Of­fens­ively, the Phil­lies and Braves are eer­ily sim­il­ar as well, but Chip­per Jones is not the same power­house any­more and the Braves are re­ly­ing heav­ily on some young guys.

However the match­ups break down, the Phil­lies have a good shot at mak­ing an­oth­er World Series ap­pear­ance. ••

In the Bat­ter’s Box ends with today’s column. This is a res­ult of ed­it­or­i­al con­tent changes at the Times.

You can reach at mgodfrey@bsmphilly.com.

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