Warning: objects in mirror are closer than they appear.
Left for dead when they dealt starting outfielders Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence and pitcher Joe Blanton
to the Los Angeles Dodgers
, the five-time defending NL East champions are red-hot and suddenly find themselves just four games back of St. Louis for the second and final wild-card spot under baseball’s new format.
Led by strong starting pitching and timely hitting from veterans and fresh faces alike, the Phillies have won six straight and 8 of 10 in Sept.
“Things have been going our way good,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
The Phillies were 46-57 when they unloaded two-thirds of their outfield on July 31, and many had already buried their 2012 playoff chances.
Here’s an excerpt from Matt Gelb’s trade story in the Philadelphia Inquirer that day:
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. proclaimed it was time to see others play, meaning there will be no October baseball in Philadelphia for the first time in six years.
That was guaranteed well before Tuesday, the day the Phillies erased two-thirds of their outfield with two trades in less than two hours. The end was swift for the National League's oldest and most expensive payroll.
Apparently someone neglected to tell the remaining Phillies, who have gone 25-14 since.
With the new dual-wild-card format, it won’t take a monumental collapse from the Atlanta Braves — who currently lead the Cardinals by 5 1/2 games — to create a chaotic final week of the season. Including Philadelphia, five teams are within five games of St. Louis, meaning this October should be one truly wild ride.
“You can kind of sense the crowd’s excitement, coming down the stretch of games with a chance to win,” John Mayberry Jr. told reporters after Sunday’s come-from-behind win against the Rockies. “I don’t think anybody in this clubhouse has written ourselves off.”
But can Philadelphia complete the comeback?
The schedule will be key. Here’s a look at how the six teams currently fighting for the final wild-card position close out the season. (Full wild-card standings here.)
Cardinals: at Dodgers, Astros, at Cubs, at Astros, Nationals, Reds
Dodgers: Cardinals, at Nats, at Reds, at Padres, Rockies, Giants
Pirates: at Cubs, Brewers, at Astros, at Mets, Reds, Braves
Phillies: at Astros, at Mets, Braves, Nats, at Marlins, Nats
Brewers: Mets, at Pirates, at Nats, at Reds, Astros, Padres
Diamondbacks: Giants, Padres, at Rockies, at Giants, Cubs, Rockies