The Phillies atoned for two seasons without a win in Houston by sweeping the Astros yesterday. The offensive was provided by long ball smashes from Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and two from Mike Lieberthal. Randy Wolf rebounded from last week’s two inning affair and improved his record to 4-0. The Phillies, as you may have heard, are now trailing the Dodgers in the wild card race by a single game after LA lost to San Diego. Padres GM Kevin Towers said, "We just wanted to pass the Dodgers and let them watch the Phillies." The Padres and Dodgers meet again tonight while the Phils are hosting the lowly but not-to-be-taken-lightly Chicago Cubs, who are now without Derrek Lee. With the Giants and Marlins slowly fading in the Wild Card standings, it appears to be a three team race for the final two playoff spots in the NL. Jerry Crasnick sums up the race for one of those spots, the NL West crown, with a funny old joke: "I don’t have to be fast enough to outrun the bear in the woods. I just have to be fast enough to outrun my friend."
A few days ago, we tried to evaluate which NL West team it would be better to chase. My initial conclusion found that since the Dodgers had better pitchers it would be better to fight the Padres. However, it seems that while the Dodgers have better pitchers, San Diego has better pitching overall. The Padres lead the National League with a 3.90 ERA, and they’re second to the Florida Marlins among NL clubs with 81 quality starts. The Dodgers are fourth in the ERA standings, while the Phils are 13th at 4.66. Looking ahead, below are the three interested parties along with their, Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds, remaining schedule and their record against the opponent in parentheses.
Padres: 80% – 3 vs. AZ (5-7), 3 vs. PIT (2-1), 3 @ StL (2-1), 4 @ AZ
Dodgers: 72% – 3 vs. PIT (2-2), 3 vs. AZ (8-7), 3 @ COL (12-4), 3 @ SF (10-6)
Phillies: 39% – 3 vs. CHI (3-1), 3 vs. FLA(8-5), 1 vs. HOU (4-1), 3 @ WAS (8-8), 3 @ FLA
It appears the Padres have the toughest road to October. Not only do they have to face St. Louis, who although maybe resting players are dominant at home, but they have seven games against division rival Arizona whom they have been less than stellar against. Pittsburgh might try to play the role of spoiler as they did over the weekend against the Mets but it’s likely neither they nor Colorado will put up much resistance against two teams fighting for a playoff spot. If the race is still close going into the final series, the Dodgers will surely have their hands full with the Giants who would love nothing more than to ruin the Dodgers hope. Yet, I must say, the more I look at the above schedule, the more I like the Phillies chances. Mike Lieberthal agrees, "We have a good chance to win, and I think we will win."