The Philadelphia Phillies’ magic number to wrap up their fifth consecutive NL East crown is down to two, but there’s no great sense of urgency after clinching a playoff berth earlier in the week.
Trying to join the Phillies in the postseason, the St. Louis Cardinals are feeling nothing but pressure.
A late-season surge has kept the Cardinals’ playoff hopes alive, but that’s a situation they could have a tough time improving in a crucial four-game series in Philadelphia that begins Friday night.
The Phillies (97-51) don’t just have the best record in baseball. In the next week or so, they’ll likely surpass the franchise record of 101 wins - originally set it 1976 and matched one year later.
They clinched a playoff spot with Wednesday’s 1-0 win in Houston, then got a bit closer to securing yet another East title on Thursday. Kyle Kendrick(notes) and four relievers combined to pitch Philadelphia to a 3-1 win in the opener of a split doubleheader with Florida, then the Phillies took the nightcap 2-1, scoring in the 10th after a two-out homer in the ninth ruined Cliff Lee’s(notes) latest attempt at a shutout.
Philadelphia can clinch the division Friday with a win and an Atlanta loss. As long as it happens before next Wednesday, the Phillies will have won the title the earliest in franchise history, surpassing the ’76 team (156 games).
“If we can wrap it up tomorrow, that would be great,” said Ryan Howard(notes), whose game-winning RBI in the nightcap was his major league-leading 113th. “Have a little champagne shower and go back out the next day and try to get them again.”
The Cardinals (81-68), meanwhile, are chasing both the wild card-leading Braves and Central-leading Brewers. Seven wins in eight games - the latest Wednesday’s 3-2 victory in Pittsburgh - have pulled St. Louis within 4 1/2 of Atlanta and 5 1/2 of Milwaukee.
“It’s about winning right now,” said catcher Yadier Molina(notes), who drove in a pair of runs as the Cardinals improved to 26-6 when he has multiple hits. “I don’t care about numbers. We’re winning and that’s the important thing.”
Getting offense from Molina could be big down the stretch, as it appears Matt Holliday(notes) might not be back. At the very least, St. Louis is shutting the five-time All-Star down for this series due to a hand injury he suffered Tuesday.
The rookie right-hander is in the rare position of having to bounce back from a loss. Worley hadn’t lost since May 29 - the Phillies had won his next 14 starts - before he gave up three runs over 6 2-3 inning Sunday while falling 3-2 at Milwaukee.
“That’s part of the game,” Worley said of the loss. “I’m not going to be perfect. I’m not going to win every game. I can’t just expect it.”
The Cardinals counter with Jaime Garcia(notes) (12-7, 3.68), who’s gone six innings apiece in a pair of September victories. He gave up three runs and eight hits Saturday in a 4-3 win over visiting Atlanta.
Garcia should be happy to see the Phillies. In three career starts, he’s 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA, holding Philadelphia to a .171 average.