Thanks to the Braves' beat-down of the Mets last night, the Phillies enter today's doubleheader against the Marlins with a magic number of six over both the Marlins and the Braves. That means they need a combination of six wins and Marlins losses to eliminate the Fish, and six wins and Braves losses to eliminate the Braves. Crunch those numbers, and they can clinch as soon as Thursday in Milwaukee, although it would require the Braves losing their last two games at Citi Field and the Phillies (87-61) sweeping this three-game set against Florida.
Every Phillies loss or Braves win moves the potential clinch-date back a day.
The earliest a Phillies team has clinched a division since the days of the 162-game schedule was 1976, when they clinched in their 155th game.
Thursday will be their 152nd game, Friday their 153rd, Saturday their 154th.
Other notes of interest for today:
1) Brett Myers is scheduled to be in Philadelphia, where team doctor Michael Ciccotti will examine his sore shoulder.
2) Because Cliff Lee threw just 52 pitches in a rain-shortened outing Sunday, there is a chance the Phillies bring him back earlier than Saturday, when his turn in the rotation arrives. If the Phillies decided to start him on Friday on normal rest, it would enable them to get Pedro Martinez another day to rebound from the still neck that knocked him from Saturday's game after just three innings.
3) Today's doubleheader starts at 4:10 p.m. Joe Blanton is pitching the first game, followed by Jamie Moyer in the nightcap.
4) Raul Ibanez enters today hitting .316 with a .381 on base percentage with four home runs, eight RBI and 16 strikeouts in 63 at-bats over his last 16 games. In his 27 previous games, Ibanez hit .177 with a .262 on base percentage with one home run, four RBI and 30 strikeouts in 96 at-bats (Aug. 1 through Sept. 3).
5) Carlos Ruiz was hopeful that he would be able to play today after sustaining a sprained wrist in Friday night's win over the Braves. If Ruiz is unable to go, it will be interesting to see how the Phillies handle the catching duties in tonight's doubleheader. I don't think there is any way Charlie Manuel asks Paul Bako to catch 18 consecutive innings. But it is also highly unlikely that he would send September call-up Paul Hoover out to catch Jamie Moyer, who uses a different set of signals than most pitchers. If Ruiz is unable to go, I'd look for Hoover to start the first game.
6) A topic of discussion amongst some writers the other night: Who is the one position player the Phillies can least afford to lose to injury? To me, the answer is Jimmy Rollins, given the three unique skill sets he brings to the field - a switch-hitting leadoff hitter playing a Gold Glove short stop -- as well as the options the Phillies have for replacing him. A close second in Chase Utley. Ryan Howard has been on fire the last couple of months, but Greg Dobbs provides a much more solid alternative at the plate and in the field than the Phillies could find for Rollins or Utley.