Pedro Martinez will start tomorrow, his first action since he suffered a strained neck in Atlanta on Sept. 19. The move will help prevent a long layoff for Cliff Lee before the start of the playoffs (provided, of course, the Phillies make the postseason), who would have been on six days rest for Game 1 or seven days rest for Game 2 if he made his scheduled start tomorrow.
It'll be interesting to see how long Martinez can pitch tomorrow. Since throwing 130 pitches in a brilliant eight scoreless innings against the Mets on Sept. 13, he has thrown just 56 pitches. Those came in three innings against the Braves, when he strained his neck in his only at-bat.
For what it's worth, this would also enable Martinez to start a potential tie-breaker on Monday, with Lee available for a potential Wild Card tiebreaker Tuesday (see scenarios below).
But assuming the Phillies do not blow the four-game lead they currently have -- all it will take is three wins in the next six games, or some Braves losses -- it is pretty clear that this move was made to give them the best possible set-up heading into the playoffs.
Logic might suggest that Cole Hamels is your game one starter. After all, he thrived in the role last year, and has pitched better than Lee over his past several starts. But Hamels started last night, meaning he can not start again before Saturday. If he starts Saturday, his next turn in the rotation would fall on the day of Game 2.
The Phillies could do something funky and have Hamels throw an abbreviated outing on Friday, provided they've clinched by then. But why risk messing with his rhythm? After all, he is better on four days rest, which he would be on for Game 2. And Lee is historically better on five days rest, which he would be on for Game 1.
Both players would be available to pitch Game 5, Hamels on four days and Lee on five days, thanks to two off days during the series.
Here are the tie-breaker scenarios:
If the Braves and the Phillies are tied and both of their records are higher than the Rockies, the Braves would be the NL East Champ and the Phillies would be the Wild Card.
If the Braves and the Phillies are tied and both of their records are worse than the Rockies, then there would be a one-game playoff on Monday.
If the Braves, Phillies and Rockies are all tied, a one-game playoff for the division would be held on Monday, and the loser would face the Rockies in a playoff on Tuesday.
If the Braves, Phillies, Rockies and Dodgers all are tied, there would be two divisional tiebreakers on Monday, followed by a Wild Card tiebreaker between the losers on Tuesday.
The Phillies would host a playoff game against the Rockies. The Dodgers and Braves would host if they face the Phillies.