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Phils Finish in Atlanta: 3 Games with Surprising Significance

Sep 26, 2011, 5:16 PM EDT

Beating the Braves to finish out the season could keep them out of the postseason and instead allow the Cardinals -- a team the Phillies have not matched up well against this season -- into the NL Wildcard spot.

For past few months, we mostly anticipated the final series of the regular season in Atlanta being meaningless. They’ve had the NL East all but officially locked up for weeks now.

But not many of us really thought the Braves would still be fighting with their playoff lives with the surging St. Louis Cardinals.

Beating the Braves to finish out the season could keep Atlanta out of the postseason and instead allow the Cardinals — a team the Phillies have not matched up well against this season — into the NL Wildcard spot.

I’m not worried about that situation all that much. As Charlie Manuel would say, champions beat whoever is put in front of them.

It’s Cliff Lee (16-8, 2.38) putting the finishing touches on his Cy Young application against right-hander Randall Delgado (1-1, 2.70) for the Bravos.

Lee will look for his 17th win of the season tonight. If he were to get it, he’d be the first lefty with 17 wins for the Phillies since Shane Rawley went 17-11 in 1987.

And, of course, the team sits on 99 victories and look to reach that pretty round number 100. It would be only the third time in franchise history, joining 101 wins in 1976 and 1977.

One interesting lineup change of note with Chase Utley batting in the two-hole, Pence at three, and Howard at four.

Tonight’s Lineup: Rollins, Utley, Pence, Howard, Victorino, Ibanez, Polanco, Ruiz, and Lee.

First pitch scheduled for 7:10 p.m. from Atlanta. Do you have any strong preferences as to the Phils first-round playoff opponent?