A few weeks ago, it looked like the NL East title wouldn’t get decided until the final weekend of the season.
Due to the Philadelphia Phillies’ 11-game winning streak, it could be determined Saturday night.
The Phillies look to clinch a fourth consecutive NL East crown when they meet the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park.
Philadelphia (93-61) and Atlanta were tied atop the East on Sept. 11 and it appeared a three-game series between the rivals at Turner Field from Oct. 1-3 would have considerable playoff implications.
The Phillies haven’t lost since, however, and can wrap up the division with a victory Saturday and a Braves loss in Washington.
“If we get it done, we get it done,” said center fielder Shane Victorino(notes), who hit a leadoff homer and had an RBI double in Friday’s 3-2 win over the Mets. “We’re just taking it one game at a time. We’re going to show up and try and get a ‘W’ and put ourselves in a better position to win the division.”
Philadelphia has won 11 in a row for the first time since a 13-game run July 30-Aug. 12, 1991. The two-time NL champions have also won 20 of 23 and are 45-15 since July 22, when they trailed Atlanta by seven games.
Philadelphia hopes it can clinch the East in this series before heading out on a season-ending road trip. Victorino could be the key to making that happen, as he’s batting .385 with three home runs and 12 RBIs in 13 games against the Mets this season.
Blanton has pitched well down the stretch and is proving he’s deserving of a postseason start, likely taking an opportunity away from Kyle Kendrick(notes) (10-9, 4.78 ERA), who will take the mound Saturday.
Depending how manager Charlie Manuel wants to set his rotation for a likely playoff berth, the inconsistent Kendrick could be making his final start of the year. Although Kendrick has had some rough outings, he’s pitched well against New York lately and is coming off a second straight decent performance.
After allowing two runs in five innings in a 4-3 loss to the Mets on Sept. 11, Kendrick gave up two runs in six innings in last Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Nationals. The right-hander had yielded at least four runs in each of his previous four starts.
Immediately before that disappointing stretch, Kendrick gave up one run in 6 2-3 innings in a 3-1 win at Citi Field on Aug. 15.
After allowing one run and seven hits over 13 innings in his first two starts against last-place teams Washington and Pittsburgh, Gee gave up three runs and six hits in seven innings in last Saturday’s 4-2 loss to Atlanta.
Despite the defeat, Mets manager Jerry Manuel was encouraged by the 24-year-old right-hander’s composure.
“I was impressed with the way he went about it,” Manuel said. “I thought he held his own.”
This will be Gee’s biggest challenge yet, as he faces a motivated Philadelphia team that has averaged 5.4 runs during its winning streak.