The Philadelphia Phillies finally won a game after holding on to beat the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday, June 13. However, this team still has a long way to go if it wants to reach the playoffs. Despite the 9-8 victory over Minnesota, the Phillies are still 9.5 games out of first place.
Not long ago, the Phillies were 28-25 and looking to make a move. Now at 30-34, the margin for error is incredibly thin. After wrapping up the series with the Twins, the Phillies will start a crucial stretch of games. The next five series are all tough ones, but ones that the team can win. If they are going to return to contending status, they have to make sure that happens.
Here is a look at the schedule that lies ahead for the Phillies:
The Blue Jays were just swept by the Washington Nationals, the team currently sitting in first place in the division. Toronto boasts a lot of young talent and many thought that it could sneak into the playoffs in 2012. However, the Blue Jays are now 31-32 and have lost six of their last 10 games. They rank among the best offensive teams in the league with 300 runs scored, but their pitching is vulnerable. Exposing that will be the key to success for the Phillies.
Versus Colorado Rockies
The Rockies are a far cry from the playoff team they were a few years ago. Through June 13, the Rockies have the third worst record in baseball. This should definitely be a team that the Phillies should beat, but we all know how bad the club has been at home. The Phillies have lost their last six home games and are just 12-19 on the season at home. They will need to change that trend in this series.
Versus Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays have become a regular contender and they look like they are on their way to doing so again. Even though Tampa Bay ranks in the bottom half in most offensive categories, its pitching more than makes up for it. The Phillies will have to manufacture runs if they hope to win the series. The last time the Rays visited Philadelphia came during the 2008 World Series. That should at least generate a little excitement for the team.
Versus Pittsburgh Pirates
While the Phillies have had their share of problems against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, things are usually better at home. The Phillies have beaten the Pirates in nine of the last 10 games the two teams have played in Philadelphia. That won't be easy because the young Pirates are a lot better in 2012 than they have been in recent years. The Pirates don't score a lot of runs, but they don't give up many, either. Fans should expect some low scoring games in this series.
At Miami Marlins
This will be the first trip to the new ballpark in Miami for the Phillies. So far, the new look Marlins have been up and down in 2012. After a remarkable run in the month of May, Miami has come back down to earth. When this series starts, it won't matter how good Miami is. The Phillies need to start playing better against division opponents. They are just 10-14 against the other NL East teams. If they're going to make a move in the division, they need to improve that record.* - Mark Paul is a Philadelphia resident and lifelong Phillies fan.