Although the absence of mediocre Phillies game stories and notebooks in the Daily News probably gave it away, I have been off the beat for the last week. Given the opportunity to watch meaningless baseball games or work on a story for the debut edition of SportsWeek, I chose the latter.
Anyway, I arrived at Gate C18 this morning and realized I had no idea what was going on with the team. When I left, the only definites were Antonio Bastardo in the eighth inning and a team-record victory total, and I'm assuming that the prospects of both of those remain unchanged.
So I turned my attention to the Phillies' opponent for the National League Division Series, which begins on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park. Because that is where the real intrigue lies. Think about it: last year, we were in Atlanta for the last series of the regular season, and the Giants were fighting for their postseason life. The Giants beat the Padres on the last day of the regular season to clinch a berth. Does anybody think the Phillies would not have advanced to the World Series if they had faced either the Braves or the Padres in the NLCS? Then we would have had the opportunity to watch Cliff Lee face this line-up, and if you think the city is about to explode after the Eagles' loss to the Giants yesterady, what do you think would have happened had Lee tossed a couple of shutouts against the Phils and led the Rangers to a World Series victory? Hell, maybe Lee would have re-signed with the Rangers, which means maybe the best thing that could have happened to the Phillies was the Giants (San Francisco) beating the Padres and then beating them in the NLCS.
Trippy, I know.
Anyway, we're back in Atlanta, and we're back to having zero clue as to who the Phillies will be facing this weekend.
But here are the options:
Currently: 93-66, clinched NL West
Remaing: Mon. vs. Dodgers - RHP Daniel Hudson (16-11, 3.43) vs. RHP Dana Eveland (2-2, 3.75); Tue. vs. Dodgers - RHP Parker (0-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Hiroki Kuroda (13-16, 3.17); Wed. vs. Dodgers - LHP Joe Saunders (12-12, 3.58) vs. TBA
Scenario: The Diamondbacks are one game behind the Brewers, but they also own a tiebreaker over Milwaukee. So they just need to finish with one more victory than the Brewers in their last series to overtake the Beermakers for home field advantage in the first round. If things stay as they are now, the Phillies will face the Diamondbacks.
Projected NLDS rotation: The Diamondbacks are set up to have Ian Kennedy pitch Game 1 of the NLDS on six days rest and Daniel Hudson to pitch Game 2 on five days rest. It looks like they would then go with lefty Joe Saunders and righty Josh Collmenter. Kennedy has given the Phillies trouble this year. But you have to like this match-up much better than the ones the Cardinals would provide. . .
2) St. Louis
Currently: 88-71, one game behind Atlanta in the Wild Card
Remaining: Mon. at Houston - LHP Jaime Garcia (13-7, 3.45) vs. LHP Wandy Rodriguez (11-11, 3.51); Tue. at Houston - RHP Jake Westbrook (12-9, 4.48) at Sosa (3-5, 4.68); Wed. at Houston - RHP Chris Carpenter (10-9, 3.59) at RHP Brett Myers (7-13, 4.31)
Scenario: Left for dead a few weeks ago, the Cardinals are just one game behind the Braves. If the two teams finish tied for the Wild Card, they would have a one-game playoff on Thursday. According to my projection, Kyle Lohse would be the man starting that game.
Projected Roation: This is where it is dicey for the Phillies. Garcia has given them problems in the past, and the lefty will be in line to start Game 1 on normal rest if the Cardinals make it that far. That would leave either Lohse or righthander Edwin Jackson in Game 2, depending on whether there is a playoff or not. Ace righty Chris Carpenter would not be able to start until Game 3, but the Phillies are probably more concerned about Garcia anyway. At this point, it would likely go Garcia-Lohse-Carpenter-Jackson or Garcia-Jackson-Carpenter-Lohse.
Currently: 94-64, one game ahead of Arizona in the race for homefield in the first round
Remaining: Mon. vs. Pirates - RHP Shaun Marcum (13-7, 3.36) vs. RHP Charlie Morton (10-10, 3.67); Tue. vs. Pirates - LHP Randy Wolf (13-10, 3.61) vs. RHP Ross Ohlendorf (1-3, 8.29); Wed. vs. Pirates - RHP Yovani Gallardo (17-10, 3.52) vs. TBA
Scenario: Brew crew needs any combination of three victories or Diamondbacks losses to clinch the second-best record behind the Phillies. It's hard to imagine them failing to do that. Clearly, the Brewers are a far tougher matchup than the Diamondbacks because of their pitching.
Projected rotation: The Brewers, like the D-Backs, are set up right where they want to be. Zack Greinke will be starting Game 1, following by Shaun Marcum in Game 2 and Wolf and Gallardo in Games 3 or 4, with their exact order to be determined. They have the best upside of any rotation in the NL outside of the Phillies, after you factor in the Braves' recent injury troubles. They'd be a tough draw in the first round.
Anyway, those are all of your options. The Braves are an absolute mess right now. They'd love to get this thing taken care of tonight and tomorrow so they can avoid starting Tim Hudson on the final game of the season, thereby sidelining him until Game 3 of the NLDS (if they do in fact make it). But the Phillies also want to get some offensive rhythm heading into the postseason, so I don't think you'll see them throwing games. Shoot, they could have tried to throw the last series of last season and they still would have had a tough time losing.
Anyway, that's your breakdown for the time being.
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