Because I was incommunicative with the world for most of this time period, it's time to both ruminate and pontificate on times past and times future.
After 16 slices or (144 games), the Phillies are in a strong position for the postseason. At this point, it's simple math. They are 7 games up on the Marlins and 7.5 games up on the Braves with 18 games remaining. This is a large lead entering the stretch run of the season, but it is not insurmountable as recent history suggests. Let's take a look at what pieces are working and what pieces aren't as September brings shorter days and longer nights.
Chase Utley: He is the glue of the team. His steady bat production sometimes is overlooked, but with his continued .400+ OBP, it shouldn't be. Also, he's spectacular at 2nd base.
Cliff Lee: 7 wins, but more importantly 5 quality starts. He was hit around a bit, being a location and speed mixing pitcher, but his groove will continue to deepen.
Cole Hamels: Feeling comfortable as a second banana, 3-1 in September with a less than 2.5 ERA is stellar.
Carlos Ruiz: Great pitch caller and handler of pitchers. He has also upped his OPS+ to above 100.
Joe Blanton: The so-called innings eater of the rotation still has a greater than 7 K/IP. Only one non-quality start since the beginning of July.
Unassisted Triple Plays: Eric Bruntlett, send your uniform to the Hall of Fame!
Jimmy Rollin's Fielding: Only 5 errors as a SS all year with some heads-up play. One DP he turned with going to third base for the second out was indicative of his field awareness.
Jamie Moyer as a Reliever and Spot Starter: It rains, he appears, he dominates.
Selling Out the Ballpark: 3.2 million fans and counting and I can sense them all screaming with excitement.
Power and More Power: 205 HR and .450 SLG as a team.
Ben Francisco: The right handed spark off the bench that was lacking earlier. Not a great player, but has a .520 SLG.
Pedro Martinez: Quite a change-up he has! 5-0 in 7 starts.
The Prodigal Son Returns: Brett Myers is a bullpen ace? He may take over the closer's role before all is said and done.
Raul Ibanez: very streaky player needs to turn around when the stretch run and postseason arrive
Brad Lidge: he has a 7.18 ERA and 30 Saves, how can this be?
Ryan Madson: Great set-up man, but wilts under the 9th inning spotlight
Offensive cohesiveness: There are days when the hits are scattered, and there are other days when they are not. Crooked numbers are good to see. Starting with the Giants series earlier, there were few games in which the Phillies scored more than 4 runs over a 15 game stretch or so.
Pedro Feliz: He is playing at his career average, but he needs to show more.
Matt Stairs: one grand slam not withstanding, he had been horrific with 26 straight hitless ABs
Jayson Werth's Fielding: This guy is a threat at the plate. 34 HRs is an amazing total. Plus he has patience and can work a count. Sometimes it seems he loses focus in the field, letting a groundball go through him or being indecisive about where to throw the ball. It's laser focus time.
Losing Trap Series: They got swept by Houston 4 straight. This is a below .500 team, there is no reason for this to happen except shoddy play and a leaky bullpen. These issues must be resolved before October anyway. These are not the 2005 Astros.
Situational hitting: Runner on third, less than two outs, get the run anyway you can. All players have heard this a million times.
Injuries: Romero, Condrey, Eyre, Park, Happ: All fill roles that could be considered integral. Luckily, the team has some pitching depth this year.
The remaining schedule will allow the Phillies to thrive if they allow they play their game, bludgeon the opponents with power and use the starting pitching to put them to sleep before the bullpen sets everyone's teeth on edge.
Here are the keys to each of the series.
@ATL-First, hope that Chipper Jones remains slumpy and/or injured. He enjoys a little too much ripping the Phils. They have to solve Derek Lowe and win a pitching duel against Jair Jurrjens or Javier Vazquez. The Braves' strength is their pitching; don't let the hitting beat you, especially the new Mark Lemke (Martin Prado).
@FLA-Neutralize the potential start that Josh Johnson makes. Tuesday's a doubleheader day. The starting pitching depth of the Phillies should be the difference. Kendrick should thrive in the spacious Marlins stadium. Speaking of stadiums, do not complain if a HR is taken away by dimensions! Adjust and run with it.
@MIL: Take advantage of the weak starting pitching (Parra, Bush, Suppan, all righties) in the first few innings and then hold on.
HOU: Don't make it a revenge series. Win 2 of 3 with some Ben Francisco help against Wandy Rodriguez.
FLA: I hope this series is unnecessary in the scheme of things.