“If the postseason began today, the Phillies would, once again, be a participant. It might not sound like much, and it probably isn’t, since October is still more than a month away and Major League Baseball doesn’t have a habit of announcing an arbitrary end-point to its regular season. Nevertheless, after a 3-1 victory over the Mets last night at Citi Field, the Phillies at least had official control of their own destiny, a situation that had not occurred since way back on May 30.
In actuality, they are nothing more than the wild-card co-leader, sharing a spot with the Giants atop the list of the National League also-rans.
But the Phillies are 66-51, which means their winning percentage is exactly .001 better than San Francisco’s.
And that’s got to count for something, right?
“I don’t even look at the wild card, believe me,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “I don’t even think about the wild card. I never look at the wild card because I think if we concentrate on our division and our record is good enough, that’s where we’ll land. If we win enough games, we should land somewhere in there. Win the division. That’s what I key on. That’s what I look at. That’s what we key on.”
In that case, they are still two games behind the division-leading Braves, whom they will play six times in the last 12 games of the season. So keep the champagne in the storage closet for the time being, especially with the Giants due in town tomorrow for the start of a three-game series.
Still, for a team that not long ago was seven games out of first place and is still waiting on the return of its two most proven power hitters, last night’s series-clinching win over the Mets was another step forward.
And the way they won – riding the right arm of Kyle Kendrick and the suddenly mobile legs of Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino – was even more notable.
In the third inning, Rollins hit a two-out single to leftfield, then stole second and third before scoring on a double by Victorino.
In the fifth, Victorino hit a two-out single to center, then stole second to put himself in position to score on Placido Polanco’s single up the middle.
The Phillies entered the night with 64 stolen bases, putting them on pace to finish the season with 89, which would be their lowest total since 2003. Over the last three seasons, they’ve finished no lower than third in the NL. In 2009, they were second with 119.
This year, injuries to Rollins, Victorino and Chase Utley, who combined for 79 steals last season, have sidelined their top three basestealers for significant stretches of time.
Victorino leads the team with 22 steals, only three behind his 2009 total. Rollins, on the other hand, has stolen just 12 bags, due in large part to a calf strain that sidelined him for 2 months and a bruised foot that further hampered him. Jayson Werth, who stole 20 bases last season, has stolen eight this year.
With an 82 percent conversion rate, they are still stealing successfully. They just aren’t stealing as much.
Maybe a wet track is exactly what they needed to get back their running game.
A sometimes-heavy rain turned the basepaths to slop in the early innings last night, but it didn’t seem to affect the Phillies, who won for the 18th time in 23 games to improve to 66-51.
“You have to capitalize on those situations,” said Victorino, who went 3-for-5 to move his average to .255. “You aren’t going to go up there and say I’m going to bop one out of this park. Stick to the small ball and it will hopefully work. And it worked for us tonight.””
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