Phils Will Miss N.L. West Teams

The Phillies currently lead the National League Wild Card race and are still in the thick of things for the division title. Looking back, beating up on teams from the N.L. West has been part of their secret to success.

If you had to find a key behind the Phillies' surge into the thick of the playoff hunt since the All-Star break, it is their ability to take advantage of the worst division in baseball.

At the break, the Phillies were 45-44 and 7 1/2 games behind the then-NL East-leading Nationals. After Wednesday's 7-4 win over the Giants, the Phillies are 69-59 and leading the NL wild-card race by a game and a half. They also trail first place Atlanta by just three and a half games.

"I always watch the scoreboard. I look between pitches," 3B David Bell said. "It's fun at this time of the year to be in the race."

"We're going to have to play really well to get in the playoffs, whether it's winning the division or the wild card. If we win enough games in this last month and a half, you never know what will happen," emphasized Bell.

The Phils can thank a heavy dose of games against the NL West for their surge. Since the All-Star break, they have gone 14-5 against the NL West, 12-10 against the other two divisions. The heavy rotation of games against NL West teams winds up this weekend with a three-game series at Bank One BallPark in Arizona. The Phillies swept the Giants and Diamondbacks during a 12-1 homestand in May and finished their season series with San Francisco at 5-1.

Nevertheless, the Phils' 21-7 season record against the NL West makes those cross-country trips more enjoyable. The only miscue on this trip was Monday's loss to the Giants, which came after a cross-country flight and no off-day.

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