Suddenly, the Phillies have everyone worried, and for a change that’s a good thing. In fact, the Phillies have some teams running scared so much that those clubs are starting to look at plans B, C and maybe even D.
Just look what happened with the Milwaukee Brewers after the Phillies swept them out of Citizens Bank Park last weekend. Even though the Brewers remain tied for first place in the wild-card race with 12 games to go, the team axed manager Ned Yost. Oh sure, it’s not uncommon for a team to fire its manager and then go on a run to the playoffs. Actually, it happened with a member of the Phillies coaching staff when Jimy Williams was fired by the Astros more than halfway through the 2004 season.
The Astros were not in first place when Williams was let go four seasons ago, but Pat Corrales had the Phillies in first place 87 games into the 1983 season when general manager Paul Owens famously sent Corrales packing and replaced the manger with himself.
Guess what? It worked. The Phillies went all the way to the World Series before the Orioles shut them down in five games.
Whether or not the Brewers’ act of desperation works or not remains to be seen. Certainly their schedule will do them no favors. This week they play six on the road against the Cubs and Reds before they finish with six at home against the Pirates and Cubs. Combined, the Brewers are 11-14 against the Cubs and Reds, but 11-1 against the Pirates.
Nevertheless, the Phillies’ latest surge just might have forced the move on Yost.
But if it were just the wild card the Phillies had their eyes on, the Brewers might have been able to weather the storm with Yost. That’s not the case, though. Instead, the Brewers have to worry about the Mets, too, since the Phillies could overtake them for first place in the NL East as early as tonight.
Oh boy… it’s happening again.
Needless to say, the shorts are bunching up at Shea Stadium because once again the Mets just can’t seem to beat the Washington Nationals. Last season the Nats swept the Mets during the last week of the season to add to the historical collapse. Had the Mets been able to beat the Nationals just once that last week things might not have worked out for the Phillies. The Nats have lost 182 games over the past two seasons, but the Mets just couldn’t figure out how to beat them once down the stretch.
That problem reappeared last night when the Nationals beat up on the rapidly aging Pedro Martinez to send the big city folks looking at the wild-card standings. At the same time, Ben Shpigel wrote for The New York Times’ “Bats” blog a story with the headline, “How Worried Should They Be in Queens?”
In comparison to last season, Shpigel writes, the Mets’ starting pitching is much improved. With Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez, the Mets would be tough to beat in a short playoff series.
But there is the matter of that bullpen. As a result the Mets are counting on a flame out from the Brewers so they can sneak into the playoffs as the wild-card team if the Phillies take the East again.
If the Brewers continue to fade (they have six games left against the Cubs), the Mets are in even better shape. Even if the Phillies overtake the Mets in the division, the Mets have to really mess up (stop smirking) to fall out. It can happen, I know. But the odds of them making the postseason at this point are better than they were at this time last year.
Meanwhile, the Phillies’ remaining schedule is another reason why the Mets and Brewers are running scared. With six more to go against the Braves and three each against the Marlins and Nats, the Phillies’ opponents have a combined .447 winning percentage (201-248).
That sounds pretty good.
With the fear come good feelings from the Phillies. Finally, they control their own destiny.
“I believe in attitude, charisma, whatever they want to call it,” Manuel said. “When we come to the ballpark, everything’s OK and fine, and everybody’s in a good mood, upbeat. Everybody’s happy.”