The Philadelphia Phillies won’t need any theatrics on the last day of the regular season to win the NL East this time.
With their second straight division title secure, the Phillies can begin turning their thoughts to getting their postseason strategy in order as they conclude a three-game set with the lowly Washington Nationals on Sunday.
Philadelphia (91-70) earned back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time since 1980-81 with its 4-3 win over Washington (59-101) on Saturday. The Phillies eliminated the Mets from contention for the division one game earlier than last season.
A remarkable finish got Philadelphia into the postseason last year. After trailing the Mets by seven games with 17 left, the Phillies took advantage of New York’s historic collapse to clinch the division on the final day of the regular season.
Philadelphia was then swept in the NL division series by Colorado.
“Last year, we came up short,” Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. “We got some making up to do.”
The Phillies will open the postseason at home on Wednesday against Milwaukee or the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Philadelphia will enter that series having played excellent down the stretch for the second straight year. The Phillies won 10 of their last 11 to gain six games in the standings in 12 days.
After a strong rookie season, Kendrick has struggled and lost his spot in the rotation. This will be his first start since Sept. 9, when he gave up seven runs and six hits in 1 1-3 innings of a 10-8 loss to Florida. The right-hander is 1-2 with a 4.82 ERA in five starts against the Nationals.
Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is 6-for-11 (.545) with a home run and three doubles against Kendrick. Zimmerman has gone 6-for 14 (.428) in his last three games, but has had a subpar season after missing two months due to a shoulder injury.
The Nationals franchise, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 1981 when it was in Montreal, seemed motivated after watching the Phillies celebrate.
“I want to win and I want to come in and win every day,” Washington second baseman Emilio Bonifacio told the team’s official Web site. “Whenever you see things like that, it makes you more excited to do well. … I hope one day we can do that.”
The Nationals will certainly need a better effort from their pitching staff to make any kind of run in 2009. Washington has posted a 6.00 ERA in its last nine games, losing eight.
Odalis Perez (7-11, 4.27) will get the ball for the Nationals in the season finale. He lost his last start, giving up three runs and five hits in six innings as Washington lost 6-2 to San Diego on Sunday.
Perez, though, tied his career-best with 11 strikeouts, matching his effort for the Dodgers against Philadelphia on April 30, 2003.
The left-hander is 6-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 10 starts and five relief appearances against the Phillies.