The Philadelphia Phillies entered the 2012 season knowing that their road would be tougher than past years. After a poor first half, their positive post-All-Star efforts aren't likely to help them gain playoff access. However, this season won't be a total loss.
That Cardinals' series
Few would have believed someone who said at this time last season that the Phillies weren't going to make the playoffs in 2012. Despite the fact that Charlie Manuel's squad had been on a two-year downward postseason path (losing to the New York Yankees in the 2009 World Series and to the San Francisco Giants in the 2010 National League Championship Series), last year's team was on a 102 regular season win trajectory.
Being dropped by the eventual World Champion St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series, while also simultaneously losing Ryan Howard at the exact end of Game 5, helped to set up this season's story.
Since major league baseball's mid-season festivities were hosted by the Kansas City Royals, the Phillies have sent some familiar players packing, played above .500, and have been making a previously unlikely plus-.500 year become a possibility.
After defeating the Atlanta Braves on September 1, the Phillies moved to within 7.5 games of the two (Braves and the Cardinals) Wild Card leaders. The Phillies face the daunting task of having to climb over four teams to qualify for the playoffs, while only having 29 games left on their schedule.
The approximate math looks something like this: The Braves, or Cardinals, along with the Pittsburgh Pirates (who were only 0.5 games behind the Wild Card leaders, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Arizona Diamondbacks have to play at .500, or slightly below .500, from here on out. The Phillies must win approximately 20 more games in September and then win their final series of the year, which is against the Washington Nationals (October 1-3).
My guess is that this rejuvenated Philadelphia squad plays well enough to finish around the .500 mark (81-81). That record wouldn't make this a playoff year, but would allow this to be a respectable season overall.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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