WASHINGTON - The Phillies enter the weekend with the chance to be spoilers to a party they are about to host.
With home-field advantage assured in each round of the playoffs, including the World Series, the Phillies will use the weekend series in Atlanta against the Braves to stay sharp, avoid injury, and, according to manager Charlie Manuel, win games.
Atlanta, which was idle Thursday, has the three games remaining with the Phillies. The Braves hold a two-game advantage over San Diego for the wild card. The Padres fell to the Cubs, 1-0, on Thursday, and the San Francisco Giants beat Arizona, 4-1, to open a three-game lead on the Padres in the NL West.
It's almost certain that Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt won't pitch in the Braves series, something that Atlanta surely won't complain about. Still, Manuel isn't heading to Atlanta waving the white flag.
"We plan on putting a team on the field that plans to be competitive," Manuel said before Wednesday's 7-1 win at Washington. "Just because we don't use a Halladay or Oswalt or something like that doesn't mean we can't think we can win."
Halladay, who pitched a complete game in Monday's 8-0 division clincher over Washington, has thrown 2502/3 innings. Oswalt has pitched 210 innings and threw five in earning a no-decision during Tuesday's 2-1 loss at Washington.
The only thing that Manuel announced was that Kyle Kendrick (10-10, 4.76 ERA) will start Friday's game in Atlanta.
Manuel hinted that Cole Hamels, who has thrown 2062/3 innings, could pitch a few innings this weekend. Pitching coach Rich Dubee said on Wednesday that virtually all the main bullpen pitchers will see action on Sunday in order to stay sharp.
Jimmy Rollins, still getting back in baseball shape after missing 15 starts with a hamstring injury, should see time. Rollins has started the last two games, going 0 for 8.
Manuel also said his other regular position players will see action. For instance, he mentioned Chase Utley and Ryan Howard as two who would see time against the Braves.
"How much I play them I don't know yet, but I might play them a big part of the games there," Manuel said of Utley and Howard. "We will play some frontline players."
The Phillies realize that they can't approach the final three games as a glorified spring training with the National League division series starting Wednesday.
"You still go about business the same way," said Howard, who is batting .278 with 31 home runs and 106 RBIs. "You are still playing games and you don't try to change your mind-set, so you go out and try to win the game."
Howard says he and his teammates can't afford to play at any less intensity. "You want to continue to play the game the same way and continue to try to get yourself ready for the postseason," he said.
Some players may use this as a final audition to get on the postseason roster. That could be the case for Kendrick.
"I don't focus on that at all," Kendrick said. "I felt I have thrown the ball pretty well this year and it's out of my control, and I just want to finish strong and see what happens."
He insists his approach will be no different from any other game. "I won't be messing around," Kendrick said. "I'll have full focus and be ready to go on Friday."