Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Best record is kind of a big deal

The Phillies' magic number stands at four as the Mets come to Citizens Bank Park and the Braves travel down I-95 for a weekend series against the Nationals.

Best record is kind of a big deal

(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)
(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

The Phillies' magic number stands at four as the Mets come to Citizens Bank Park and the Braves travel down I-95 for a weekend series against the Nationals.

So yes, the division could be clinched as soon as Saturday. But remember: The Phillies are throwing Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick the next two days and Atlanta has Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe going in Washington.

Sooner or later, the team's attention will shift from the division to the best record in the National League. But that shouldn't last very long.

Much will be made about the debate to rest the regulars or go for the best record in the league. Here's the thing: The Phillies have a six-game lead in the division. They also have a six-game lead for best record in the NL.

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So this whole debate could be moot. If the Phillies take care of business in a relatively brisk manner, they could be facing three or four completely meaningless games. That will allow for rest for some regulars, specifically Placido Polanco, who told The Inquirer earlier in the week he would like to have one more cortisone injection in his left arm before the postseason begins. For that to happen, he needs a few days off.

Make no mistake about it, having the best record in the league is fairly important this season. That's because the top dog in the NL will have the choice of one extra day off during the Division Series. For the Phillies, that's the difference between being able to use just the Big Three in the first round and not.

Let's just assume, for these purposes, that Roy Halladay starts Game 1 of the NLDS. If the Phillies lock up everything with time to spare, they can line up their pitchers however they'd like, all receiving enough rest heading into the postseason.

Oct. 6 -- Halladay
Oct. 8 -- Hamels
Oct. 10 -- Oswalt
Oct. 11 -- Halladay (4 days' rest)
Oct. 13 -- Hamels (4)

Oct. 7 -- Halladay
Oct. 8 -- Hamels
Oct. 10 -- Oswalt
Oct. 11 -- Halladay (3)
Oct. 13 -- Hamels (4)

Four days' rest, of course, is regular rest. So if the Phillies don't have the best record in the league, they would have to start whomever pitches Game 1 on short rest for Game 4 -- or use Joe Blanton.

So while it's likely the Phillies won't have to worry about balancing the desire for rest and the top record in the National League, it's something to keep an eye on.

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