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As Key Veterans Return, the Time is Now for the Philadelphia Phillies

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Chase Utley is likely to return to the Philadelphia Phillies' lineup this weekend when they take on the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park. That will mean the Phillies' remaining championship core group from the 2007-11 glory days will be back together again.

That's Utley at second base, Ryan Howard at first base, Jimmy Rollins at shortstop and Carlos Ruiz at catcher. These four guys along with pitchers Cole Hamels and Kyle Kendrick are the players who have been there all the way through the best stretch of Phillies' baseball ever. If the current team is to make what now would appear to be a monumental run into the playoffs, the aforementioned everyday players will have to be in the middle of it.

Entering Friday's play, the Phillies were 35-38 for the season, eight games behind the Atlanta Braves in National League East. There are 89 games yet to play. In order to have a good chance at the postseason, the Phillies will likely have to win something like 55 to 60 of those games - roughly two out of every three. That's asking a lot.

Best case would be 50 wins or so somehow squeaking them into the playoffs given enough second-half collapses around them. Even 50 would require 11 more wins than losses. Given the way the 2013 season has gone, it seems impossible.

But the impossible has been done in the past. That's the beauty of baseball.

In 1951, the New York Giants went 54-23 over the second half of the season to come from 12½ games back in mid-August to catch the Brooklyn Dodgers and beat them in a playoff on Bobby Thomson's famous home run. The Colorado Rockies won 21 of 22 games in September, 2007 and went all the way to the World Series. That same season, the Phillies won 13 of their last 17 games to edge the collapsing New York Mets for the NL East title on the final day of the season.

Dare we remind Phillies' fans how the St. Louis Cardinals won 9 of their last 11 games in 1964 to overtake the Phils for the National League pennant? The Phils had lost 10 straight after leading by 6½ games with 12 to play.

Is this Phillies team capable of such a run? The remaining core championship Phillies in the everyday lineup are all 33 years of age or older. All have struggled with injuries and inconsistency in recent years. Prevailing wisdom indicates this is the final ride for Utley and Ruiz with the club as both are in contract years. Depending how the team plays in the next few weeks, that ride may be shortened by trades.

But these guys know how to win. Howard, Utley and Rollins are regarded by many as the best to ever take the field for the Phillies at their positions over a career. Maybe Ruiz isn't Bob Boone, Darren Daulton or Mike Lieberthal in terms of his overall impact at catcher. But he's a beloved fan favorite who is among baseball's elite in terms of managing his position.

If they can remain healthy and get it rolling, the Phillies might be able to pull it off. With almost half the season gone, that roll has to start very soon.

Ted Williams lives in Emmaus, PA and is a lifetime Phillies follower. He spent 20 years in print journalism, winning state and national awards. He covered the 1980 World Series, the first championship in Phillies history.

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