I am a believer – and I’m not the only one. Today’s game helped to convince me and my 44,772 friends that the Phillies can and will make the playoffs. Usually when the Phils go down four runs after the top of the first inning, you might find people heading for the exits, but not today. Today, everyone, including the Phillies themselves, knew a determined comeback would be mounted. The confidence was expressed through deafening cheers from the moment Jimmy Rollins led off the Phillies half of the first inning. Even thought the home team was turned away it seemed like everyone knew the Phils would eventually get the runs back. And did they ever! The team picked themselves up received contributions from all the players and exploded for seven runs in the third inning. First JRoll hit a two-run homer (his 24th of the season), then Chase Utley followed with one of his own, and Chris Coste capped off the inning with a three-run shot. "I could have done cartwheels around the bases I was so happy," Coste said. "That’s definitely the biggest home run I’ve had here, no question." The inning so riled the Marlins young starter, Scott Olsen, that he hit Abraham Nunez with the next pitch which promptly earned him a trip to the showers by home plate umpire Mark Wegner. Chase Utley hit another one and Pat Burrell smashed his 27th homer each on opposite sides of a 1:45 rain delay.
This Marlins series has been real good to Chase Utley. Chase batted just .246 with one home run and 11 RBIs (among other season lows) in August, and it seemed his slump would threaten his September numbers as well. His season average dipped below .300 before going 10-for-14 this weekend with three homers which helped to raise him back up to .309. Utley has seven multihomer games this season with three of them coming this month. I had serious concerns last week that Chase’s underproduction coupled with a slowing of Howard’s homerun pace (2 homeruns in the past 15 days, though 17 walks) would significantly reduce the Phillies chances to win the wild card. Yet, now while the going is getting tough, Chase is getting clutch. But Chase isn’t the only one. Over this weekend I have noticed a great deal of confidence being exuded by Jimmy Rollins, Jeff Conine and even Abraham Nunez. Last season the Phils swept the final series of the year against the Nationals to give themselves a chance to catch Houston, but by then it was too late. Now the Phils are playing with resolve and a sense of urgency that has catapulted them into the Wild Card lead, albeit by just a half of a game. I think it’s very possible the Phils win their remaining seven games and with that send our beloved franchise to their first playoff berth in (a lucky) 13 years.