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Playing God With the NL Playoffs: Phils Help Decide Wild Card Team Against Braves

Dec 1, 2009, 6:00 PM EDT

OK, so maybe we thought this series would be a little higher-stakes than it’s ended up being for the Fightins. I remember there was a time when we were all saying to ourselves “OK, we just need to be within a couple of games of the Braves for when we play them six times at the end of the season, then at least we can decide our own fate.” Little would we have expected that we’d be using the first three of those games to put insurmountable distance between us and the Bravos, and the last three basically as garbage time to get our bench some reps while our big guns take a load off. Not that we’re complaining, certainly, but it does take a little of the edge off this series.

However, that’s not to say that the Phillies don’t have anything to play for in this series. With a strong performance in the ATL, and a good deal of help from the Padres out west, the Phils could spoil the Braves’ chances of getting to the post-season in manager Bobby Cox’s farewell season.

The Padres had a chance to really make things interesting last night, as a win against the Cubs could have cut the dormant Braves’ lead in the Wild Card race to a scant one game. But as has been a recurring theme for the Pads all year, a fantastic effort from starter Jon Garland was wasted without a single run of offensive support, and the Cubs scored one in the ninth to put the Friars a full two games back, with just three to go. Now San Diego needs Philly to take at least two from Atlanta, and would probably prefer them to sweep altogether, as they hope to make up ground in a three-gamer against the Giants.

Do we care? Hard to say, especially given that our most recent series against both of these teams resulted in a Fightins sweep, but if for no other reason than continued divisional ownership, I’d probably rather see the Padres as the last team in. In any event, this will in all likelihood be the merciful final start for our Kyle Kendrick, whose year fell short of being a total failure (10-10, 4.76 ERA), but who I don’t think any of us much wanted to see taking the mound for the Phils in any meaningful capacity again anytime soon. He’s up against young Brandon Beachy, 0-1 with a 2.89 ERA in his two starts for Atlanta–the L coming against the Phils in Philly a week and a half ago.

7:35 first pitch from Turner Field. Only a couple games left before it all becomes life or death again. In the meantime, it’s nice to just enjoy the game for its own sake, without all the stomach-churning drama of the season’s first 157 games. Or it’s nice to go out and have a social life again, whatever your speed.