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Commentary: Phils Face Defining Week

In many ways, the 5-4 road trip felt more like a 2-7 road trip for the Phillies. The final two losses against the Cardinals left very bitter tastes in our mouths, while two of the worst losses of the season came during this nine-game swing. Though the Phils sit three games ahead of the division and 11 games over .500, the usual stench of doubt and fear lingers right behind the Phils and us fans.

All just in time for the Red Sox and Angels to park their cars in the Citizens Bank Park lot.

And not only are the teams coming. As the baseball world knows, where the Red Sox go, so do their fans. The Bank could possibly be a 50-50 split this week, making it all the more uncomfortable for the Phils and us fans to watch the series. Add to that the Sox own hated former-draftee JD Drew, former Phils manager-turned-wizard Terry Francona and former Phils ace-turned-outspoken Hall of Famer Curt Schilling (in town or not), and you got a recipe for a heated three-game set.

Make no mistake, this is a World Series preview. Many experts believe the Phils are one of the National League’s top-three teams, and the standings also reveal that. The Red Sox, meanwhile, own the American League’s top record. The Angels, coming to town this weekend, are No. 2 on the list. Two World Series previews in one week — a blessing in disguise.

Tonight’s game against the Sox will be broadcast nationally, the dessert from a full day of Tiger marching through Torrey Pines in the U.S. Open playoff. It’s a marquee game tonight — Former Cy Young Bartolo Colon vs. Future Cy Young Cole Hamels. Two very good offenses (when they want to be). Two shutdown bullpens.

With all the fanfare, all the comparison and all the annoyance of having Red Sox Nation littering our beautiful yard, it’s time to make a statement. A giant statement. The kind of statement that turns heads and raises reputations. Not only do the Phils need to win to preserve their division lead, but they need to show the baseball world this team is one of its premiere franchises.

Last year, as amazing as it was, still tastes fluky in the minds of baseball pundits. They like attributing the playoff clinch more to the Mets failures than the Phils successes. The truth is in the last couple years the Phils have been one of the NL’s top teams. The foundation may be the best in baseball. There are elite players all over this team, and yet experts still place the Phils behind the Braves, behind the Mets, behind the Cubs when discussing the NL.

Maybe there is truth in all that, but for now the Phils have shown to be a top club. This is the venue in which the Phils must cement that reputation. I expect, demand, and need a 4-2 week. Sure, a 3-3 or 2-4 might not be too bad for the Phils, but these next six games mean much more than division seeding. They’re about projecting a voice in Major League Baseball.

The Bank should be rocking this week, and hopefully with more Phillie fans than Sox fans. The players have to respond. No more woes with runners in scoring position. Tight starting pitching and even more flawless relief pitching. Get the job done. Show us playoff baseball and come out winning. For all we know, this could be the most important week of baseball in Philadelphia since 1980.

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