Crunch Time For The Phillies

The Phillies know the task ahead of them and have seemingly reshaped part of their team with the addtions of Chase Utley and Amaury Telemaco. Now, it's just a matter of pushing the right buttons and everybody doing their part to make the Phillies strong enough to hang on to the lead in the National League wild card race.

Six weeks left in the season…neck and neck with the Marlins…and the Braves are nowhere to be seen. This is the scenario facing the Phillies right now.

Larry Bowa and Ed Wade took a few much-needed steps towards the run for post-season play by calling up Chase Utley and Amaury Telemaco on Wednesday. Whether these two additions help in the stretch drive remains to be seem. Utley was tearing up the International League, and had a good showing in his earlier stint with the Phils this season. Bringing up Utley means Placido Polanco, the steady fielding second sacker, will move to third base, replacing the enigmatic David Bell for the time being. The big question will be how Utley will stand up to the pressures of a pennant race (or, more realistically, the Wild Card chase). Telemaco has been here before, and he showed at Scranton that he can put the ball over the plate. He is an improvement over Brandon Duckworth, who was creating a drain on the bullpen with his short performances. Telemaco should be a serviceable fifth starter, and hopefully he can do a better job than Ducky did.

As for the remainder of the team, the onus is on Larry Bowa to get the most out of his lineup, and that means picking a lineup and sticking with it. Find out what works, and leave it that way. If it means hitting Pat Burrell fourth and Jimmy Rollins seventh, then so be it. (Burrell, by the way, seems to be seeing some light at the end of his season-long tunnel. His two-homer game against San Francisco over the weekend may have been the elixir he needs to start his motor). But Bowa needs to have faith that his lineup, whatever it may be, will do the job. He's had 120 games to work it out.

The bullpen has been the team's saving grace so far this year, Jose Mesa not withstanding. The need has not yet arisen for Bowa to use his "closer by committee"; when it happens, all eyes will be on number 10 to see what he does.

The Braves have pulled away; the Marlins are right there for the taking. The Phillies have 42 games remaining to try and extend this final season at the Vet. It starts tonight with the Cardinals, in what should be a great test of how the Fightin's will fare against playoff-caliber opponents.

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