Marlins and Phillies...Let's Get Ready To Rumble!

Like two people unafraid to approach the other person, the Phillies and Marlins have watched each other from afar for some time now. Suddenly, they're thrust together in front of what is sure to be a crowded and raucous Veterans Stadium as they stare each other down in their pursuit of the National League Wild Card berth into the postseason. It all begins what may be the most important ten day stretch that the Phillies have experienced in a long time.

It has admittedly been frustrating for the Phillies. A long road trip that went badly out of control early on was made more frustrating by the missed opportunity to bury a slumping Marlins team. By the time the Phillies turned things around, so did the Marlins and the Phillies still couldn't shake the fish off their tail. Eventually, as the frustration grew to new heights, the Marlins edged in front of the Phillies and were threatening to pull away until the Baseball Gods saw fit for the Phillies to win the final game of their series with Pittsburgh and the Marlins to lose their game with Atlanta bringing the Phillies to 1 ½ games out in the wild card race.

The Phillies and Marlins meet six times over the next nine days. The first of the three meetings are in Philadelphia, where the Phillies have played well this season. It's a series that the Phillies need desperately to take advantage of; Anything short of two out of three means that the Marlins have a distinct advantage. For the Phillies, the pitching matchups didn't work out exactly the way they would have wanted. Randy Wolf, who has in many ways been the ace of the Phillies staff, pitched Sunday and will miss the series. Thanks to an off day on Monday – the Phillies first in 28 days – Kevin Millwood will get a chance to take on the Marlins in Thursday's contest. Between now and then, it's up to Vicente Padilla and Brett Myers.

The Marlins have won eight in a row against the Phillies and nine of the thirteen games that the two teams have played this season. While the Phillies haven't forgotten that, they can't worry about it. Now is not the time to believe in jinxes. Instead, the Phillies have to believe that the Marlins are beatable and have to prove it on the field.

The big difference in the Marlins hasn't been anyone with a good, hard curveball or a sweet looking homerun swing. It has been a 72 year old man, who was thought to have been left behind by major league baseball. A team that was five games under the .500 mark has suddenly found themselves playing at over a .600 clip (67-44) since McKeon came back to town. A team that was an also-ran has pulled itself up through the ranks and has the other wild card hopefuls looking up at them. McKeon also plays a significant role in a main sub-plot to the series. It was Jack McKeon, who fired Larry Bowa as manager of the San Diego Padres, although he insists that the order came from higher-ups. It was also Jack McKeon that, as the Phillies struggled to win games, noted that he believes Bowa "panics" as a manager. There may be some interesting glances shot back and forth between the dugouts.

After a mid-week series with the Marlins, the Phillies need to knock around the Reds this coming weekend at Veterans Stadium to put themselves in a good spot. That would leave a trip to Florida and the final weekend at home against Atlanta to determine their postseason chances. With the Phillies troubles on the road, you have to figure that they need at least a two game lead in the wild card race going into next week's series in Miami. To do that, they almost need to sweep the Marlins at home.

Actually, now isn't the time to worry about what lies ahead. All the Phillies need to know is that the Marlins are in town and this is the team that they have to beat. This is the team that most likely stands between the Phillies and the postseason. This is the time to determine whether Veterans Stadium goes out with a bang or a thud. No time to look back, no time to look ahead, only time to look now - long and hard – at the Florida Marlins and a potential date with the postseason.

Review the season series between the Phillies and Marlins

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