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Eighty-six down, 76 to go

shanechaseasgAs the All-Star festivities in St. Louis commence, and the best players in the world retreat back to their respective teams, it’s time to hunker down and concentrate on what remains.

For our Philadelphia Phillies, the focal point has been the starting pitching.  Pedro Martinez is joining the team and Roy Halladay has been linked in trade rumors.  Martinez will take his time getting back to the majors, as he will surely need work in the minor leagues before he is in top shape.

As for Halladay, it’s a situation that’s been hashed and rehashed countless times. We will only have to deal with the speculation for a few more weeks as the July 31 trade deadline rapidly approaches.

Beginning the second half of the 2009 season, the Phillies will hit the road to face the Florida Marlins.  Of the remaining 76 games left on the schedule, 40 of them are on the road.  That could be a blessing or a burden, depending on whether or not the Phils continue their hot play away from the Bank.

Focusing on their NL East opponents is also necessary due to the logjam in the division. The New York Mets sit 6 ½ games out of first, and will face the Phillies eight times before the season is through. Atlanta is six back and will see the Phillies nine more times, and the Marlins are four out and play the Phils 12 times over the final three months. Each team is still within shouting distance, so that small four game lead is nowhere near safe.

New York is floundering, but they are a club to keep an eye on.  Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, and others have been missing for an extended period, so look for the Mets to get healthy when it counts.  The Braves offense has been the downfall of their season so far.  They rank in the lower half of the NL in runs scored, but a healthy Chipper Jones and the addition of Nate McLouth could change that.  Florida has the pitching staff to rule the East, but man, do they strike out a bunch at the plate.  The Nats, are, the Nats.

One of the major problems for the Phils had been their play here in their own town. Before a 9-1 home stand ended the first half, the Fightin’s were just 13-22 here in Philly. Now, at 22-23, there is hope that this team is now settled in on their own turf.

All in all, it was a very productive 86 game start for the Phillies, but everyone believes it could be even better. Is a title in the cards again this year? Just 76 games remain. Concentrate, fellas.

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