For the first time since May 30th, the Philadelphia Phillies woke up on top of the NL East today with a 1/2 game lead over the Atlanta Braves. Since holding a 7 game lead over the Phillies on July 21st, the Braves have gone 24-22. Over that same stretch, the Fightins have gone 32-15 to overtake Atlanta.
Everyone has been waiting for Atlanta to fall back to Earth at some point this season, but they do appear to be a legitimate thread to deny the Phillies a 4th straight NL East crown. With Chipper Jones out for the year, the Braves made a deal to acquire Derek Lee from the Cubs, but he hasn’t been the offensive spark that he could have been.
Of course, the biggest reason behind the Phillies’ recent surge has been the fact that the regular lineup has finally gotten a chance to play together. With everyone returning from injury, including Chase Utley & Ryan Howard, the Phillies finally resemble the team that is the 2 time defending National League Champions. With all of the injuries, it seemed as if the Lehigh Valley IronPigs were on the field at Citizens Bank Park at some points this summer.
At 80-60, the Phillies have 22 games left in the season. With 6 of those against the Braves, it’s going to be a very entertaining race down the stretch. To eclipse last year’s total of 93 wins, the Phillies would have to go 14-8 in their final 22. That’s going to be tough to do as the schedule is all NL East teams from here on out.
With a 6-2 start to September, the Phillies have continued their pace from August, where they won 18 games. They have also won at least 17 games in each of the past 4 Septembers. If they can do that again this month, with 6 against the Braves, the Phillies have a very good shot at advancing to the postseason for the 4th consecutive year.
This team has the potential to be very scary in the playoffs, with the three-headed monster of Halladay, Oswalt, & Hamels pitching in front of an offense that always turns it up a notch in the fall. Now they just have to get there.