The Ultimate Week

So, here it is; the final week of the 2008 regular season and the Phillies find themselves in a pretty good spot. There is still a lot that could happen even with the Phillies holding their destiny in their hands.

Right now, the Phillies have a magic number of four to clinch a playoff spot. Any combination of Phillies wins or Milwaukee Brewers losses totaling four gives the Phillies a guaranteed playoff spot.

Milwaukee comes home after a 2-8 road trip that started by getting swept in Philadelphia and included a change in the manager's office, which did little good. They close out the season with three against the Pittsburgh Pirates starting Tuesday and finish things out with a three game series with the Chicago Cubs. Milwaukee has dominated the Pirates this season, going 11-1, but is 5-8 against Chicago.

Of course, all eyes are on the Mets.

New York has the Cubs in town for four starting Monday and then the Florida Marlins to close out regular season baseball at Shea Stadium. The Mets have won 9 of 15 meetings with the Marlins and are 0-2 against the Cubs. With the Phillies having just six games this week (three against Atlanta and three against Washington, all at home), the Mets can pick up an automatic half-game on Thursday when the Phillies are off.

Anyone wearing Phillies red should consider adding a little Cubs blue to the mix this week. With three against the Brewers and four against the Mets, the Cubs hold a lot of the Phillies future in their hands. The problem is that the Cubs have already clinched the NL Central and could basically just play out the week.

Steve Holley of InsideTheIvy.com doesn't think that Lou Piniella will allow his team to kick back and relax.

"I don't think it's likely that Piniella would a.) rest his regulars and risk them getting too rusty, or b.) risk being perceived as pandering to one team or another at a critical time," said Holley. "It is very possible that the lineup you saw Sunday (full of reserves and minor leaguers) was his way of giving the big guns a day off against an irrelevant club knowing that two playoff teams are both coming up and no off-days are due until the end of the regular season."

Holley also points out that the Cubs are still fighting for home field advantage throughout the playoffs and interestingly, the Phillies are the only club capable of taking that advantage away from them. Right now, the Cubs magic number to clinch home field stands at one, but the Phillies would win the tie-breaker for home field advantage against the Cubs thanks to the Phillies winning four of the seven games that the two teams have played.

Atlanta comes into Citizens Bank Park after taking two out of three against the Mets over the weekend, including a come from behind win on Sunday when they raked the Mets bullpen over the coals. Actually, the Braves have helped the Phillies a lot over the last ten days by taking four out of six against New York.

While the Phillies are grateful, they will look to add to their 13-2 record against Atlanta this season when the two teams match up in Philly. The Phillies will also enjoy Washington's visit having taken 9 of 15 against the Nats. Both Atlanta and Washington are capable of playing the spoiler role and neither figures to let the Phillies coast into the post-season.

Should the Phillies and Mets finish in a tie for the division and the Brewers come back to win the wild card, the Mets would come to Philadelphia next Monday for a one-game playoff. The Phillies would have Brett Myers available to pitch on regular rest, while the Mets would find whoever is available. If the Phillies and Mets are both guaranteed of playoff spots, but finish tied, the Mets would take the division title and the Phillies would be the wild card because of the unfortunate 7-11 record that the Phillies hold against the Mets this season.

By the way, the next time someone tells you that early season games don't matter, point this out; the Phillies were 2-4 against the Mets in two April series'. The Phillies were also just 3-7 against the Mets prior to the All-Star Break. Had the Phillies just played .500 ball against the Mets in the first-half of the season, the Phillies would hold a 5.5 game lead over the Mets and the magic number would be at two.



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