What will it take: 7-3? 6-4?

Ryan Howard and the Phillies have won six in a row. How many more victories will it take to lock up a spot in the playoffs? (John Bazemore/Associated Press)

You might think that baseball writers are the coolest human beings in the world. You might think that when we leave the ballpark at night after filing our stories, we have to beat away all the groupies and autograph seekers who clog the press entrance at the stadium. Oh -- that's not what you think? Well, you're right. Last night, myself and three of my competitors walked out of Turner Field around midnight, waved goodbye to the night security guard, then piled into a rented Dodge Charger for the drive back to the hotel.

Now, you might think that with the rich and cultured lives we live, we'd have something to talk about besides baseball. The slumping economy, the Presidential race, the series premiere of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. But, surprisingly, that's not the case. So last night as we whisked through the cool Atlanta night, the topic of conversation briefly lingered on the Phillies' prospects in these last 10 games.

The question was posed: how many of these remaining games will they need to win to make the playoffs? They've won six in a row, and are a season-high 18 games over .500. But they are still only a half game ahead of the Mets, and a game ahead of the Brewers in the Wild Card should push ever come to shove (I've already put a toe tag on the Houston Astros. It was fun while it lasted, but they've got no shot).

Here are the remaining games for the three teams:

Phillies: at Atlanta, at Florida, at Florida, at Florida, vs. Atlanta, vs. Atlanta, vs. Atlanta, OFF, vs. Washington, vs. Washington, vs. Washington.

Mets: at Washington, at Atlanta, at Atlanta, at Atlanta, vs. Cubs, vs. Cubs, vs. Cubs, vs. Cubs, vs. Florida, vs. Florida, vs. Florida


How many wins do the Phillies need in their final 10 games to make the playoffs?

Brewers: at Cubs, at Cubs, at Cincinnati, at Cincinnati, OFF, vs. Pittsburgh, vs. Pittsburgh, vs. Pittsburgh, vs. Cubs, vs. Cubs, vs. Cubs

The Phillies obviously have the easiest schedule, by virtue of not having to play the Cubs. The Brewers still have to face the Cubbies five times, while the Mets face them four times. The Mets have the toughest road, since they don't have an off day for the rest of the season, and they finish the year against a Florida Marlins team that has nothing to lose. And the difference between a team like Florida with nothing to lose and a team like the Pirates with nothing to lose is that the Marlins are actually a halfway decent team and have the ability to beat you. And Dan Uggla has already made it perfectly clear that the Fish are drawing their motivation from raining on everybody's else's parade.

Which brings us back to the question: how many do the Phillies have to win? Frankly, I think the Marlins are a huge potential road block this weekend. I would not be surprised to see them lose two of three. I think if they win two of three, they simply need to win their final two remaining series to get in. So that would be 7-3 in the final 10 games. I still think 6-4 presents a good chance at getting into the postseason, since the odds are against both the Mets AND the Brewers going 7-3 down the stretch.

Regardless, it'll be an interesting final week-and-a-half.


Elsewhere. . .

J.A. Happ will get a fifth major league start on Monday.

OK, so the Phillies haven't actually announced it yet. But when you really look at the situation, there's no way he won't be on the mound when they face the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. The only other option seems to be Cole Hamels starting on short rest. And I think we all know how reluctant both parties are to do that. Charlie Manuel didn't make any announcement after the game, but did say that Happ "went up on the totem pole."

Pitching coach Rich Dubee said, "I don't see how he could (do anything) but go up."


Thought I'd pass this along in case anybody else needs to make travel arrangements for the playoffs. These are my approximations for the postseason schedule given a number of different scenarios.

If the Phillies win the division and the Mets win the Wild Card, they are in Los Angeles Saturday, Oct. 4 and Sun. Oct. 5 with off days bracketing the weekend.
If the Phillies win the Wild Card, they are in Chicago Wednesday, Oct. 1-2 with an off day Friday Oct. 3. Game five, if necesarry, is Tuesday Oct. 7 in Chicago.
If the Phillies win the division and the Brewers win the Wild Card, the Phillies are in Milwaukee Saturday Oct. 4, Sunday Oct. 5, with off days bracketing.
NLCS schedule is as follows:
Thu., Oct. 9 - Game 1
Fri, Oct. 10 - Game 2
Sat., Oct. 11 - OFF
Sun., Oct. 12 - Game 3
Mon, Oct. 13 - Game 4
Tue., Oct. 14 - OFF
Wed., Oct. 15 - Game 5
Thu., Oct. 16 - OFF
Fri., Oct. 17 - Game 6
Sat., Oct. 18 - Game 7


And, finally, one of the most heart-wrenching headlines of the day. One of the untold stories of the country's soaring gas prices is the immense burden that is now being placed on the nation's cocaine dealers. What once was a simple trip to the 7-11 parking lot across town is now a significant drain on profits, so much so that at least one dealer has instituted a $25 gas surcharge for all deliveries. Apparently, he heard that U.S. Airways was charging $2 for Coke, and he took the idea and ran with it.