As soon as the 2010 schedule was released, this last weekend series in Atlanta seemed to be highlighted as one to watch. As the season wore on and injuries piled up for the Phillies as they were looking up at the Braves in the NL East, Phillies fans thought these final three days would possibly be the last gasp for their fightins to make the playoffs.
As it stands now, the Phillies are busy setting their playoff rotation and roster and it’s the Braves who need this final series to save their playoff hopes for 2010. It’s a last chance for the Braves to give their beloved manager, Bobby Cox, a run through the playoffs.
So as the Phillies worry about their rotation and post-season roster, just how much effort should they put into this final series with their division rival. From a baseball angle, this series means absolutely nothing to the Phillies; they’ve clinched the division and home field advantage throughout the playoffs, so there isn’t anything else for them to worry about other than staying healthy.
There is that old “integrity of baseball” bugaboo that they will be hearing a lot about this weekend. A wild-card berth is at stake for the Braves, who are watching the scoreboard to see what’s going on between San Diego and San Francisco at Pac Bell Park this weekend.
First, the Giants are now just one win away from winning the division and leaving the Padres and Braves to battle for the wild-card. The Braves magic number to clinch the wild-card is two. If San Diego were to sweep the Giants this weekend – not likely – then the two teams would have a playoff game on Monday, with the winner taking the division title. If the Phillies were to sweep the Braves this weekend – also not likely – then the loser of that playoff game would be the wild-card winner and the Braves would be on the outside looking in.
So, with the Braves obviously having a very good shot at winning the wild-card, how should the Phillies play this final series? Right now, the worst-case scenario for the Phillies would be to have a key player get hurt in what is a meaningless series for the division champs, so it’s wise to rest some of their starting players. The fine line though is that if they rest too many, they’ll be hearing about not playing up to the integrity of the game and they’ll run the risk of players gathering a little bit of rust heading into the post-season.
It’s most likely that who plays and how much will come down to the players discretion in most cases. Others are likely to be dictated by their particular situation.
Jimmy Rollins figures to play pretty much as he tries to get back into baseball shape after a long injury layoff. Rollins’ infield mate, Placido Polanco, may not play too much after getting a cortisone shot in his ailing right elbow, which will require surgery after the season. It’s likely that Carlos Ruiz and Brian Schneider will each catch one game, with Paul Hoover starting in another.
As for pitching, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt are done for the regular season. Cole Hamels will start one game against Atlanta, but isn’t likely to throw more than about 70 pitches. Kyle Kendrick starts Friday night and Sunday could be pretty much of a bullpen game just to get some guys a little work before the two day layoff before the NLDS begins on Wednesday.
Expect to see Vance Worley, Mike Zagurski and some others getting more work than usual this weekend. Also expect to see players like Domonic Brown get some at-bats as the Phillies decide what to do with him for their post-season roster.