With 10 games to go, the Philadelphia Phillies have officially run out of things to play for.
After earning a playoff spot last Thursday with a win against the Houston Astros, they followed with a win on Saturday night to wrap up the division, making it the fifth straight season that the Phillies have led the class of the National League east.
The only thing that was left for them to play for, except for pride and for the best single season record in franchise history, was home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
And thanks to the Chicago Cubs, who dropped the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday night, the Phillies can officially take it easy the rest of the way, as they will not only be guaranteed to win the division and have the N.L.’s best record, but will never play an October series without home field advantage.
It’s not like the Phillies need the luxury of playing more of their games at home, thanks to a 46-29 record away from Citizens Bank Park – the best in the league.
But now that they literally have nothing else to play for until they host some unfortunate team in the first game of the National League Division Series, they can relax and get some much needed rest for the first time since Opening Day.
It is absolutely in the team’s best interest to rest as many of the starters as often as possible, like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Placido Polanco, and Ryan Howard; guys who have been banged up for most of the season and could stand to use a mini-vacation before the journey back to the World Series starts.
At the same time, it gives Charlie Manuel a chance to get his starting pitchers the exact amount of work during their starts in order to make sure they aren’t the least bit rusty when the regular season ends. That means pitch counts for the starters, minor use of the relievers, and lots of opportunities for the recently added Justin De Fratus and Joe Savery.
All the while, the bench players will have a chance to make their mark over the last week, as the team sorts out its postseason roster. While guys like John Mayberry, Brian Schnieder and Ross Gload are a shoe-in for the postseason roster, there is still a bit of uncertainty as to who else will make the cut, leaving guys like Domonic Brown, Ben Francisco and John Bowker left to fight for a final spot on the team.
As other National League teams fight for their spot in the playoffs, and worry about getting their rotation set, the Phillies are in for another week and a half of meaningless games. By extension, that means we, the fans, are in for another week and a half of meaningless games. While the team uses that time to take care of some bumps and bruises and the like, you can similarly take advantage of this calm before the storm by finishing up that book, or by learning a new hobby, or, if you’re like me, rooting against the Atlanta Braves.
Late September baseball. Gotta love it.