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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Will the Phillies determine their playoff opponent?

As St. Louis Cardinals fans know all too well, the team cannot achieve its immediate goal of making the 2011 National League post-season without significant help. That assistance must come from continued losses by the Atlanta Braves.

Atlanta finishes with three at Washington and three at home against their Eastern Division foe and 2012 champion Philadelphia Phillies. Having already clinched home field advantage for the NL Divisional and Championship Series, what might the Phils have left to prove as the regular season ends?

It is too bad that MLB doesn’t give home field advantage in the World Series to the team with the best record in the regular season. In that case, perhaps the Phils would be motivated to ensure they win more games than the Yankees, but that is not the case – leaving an argument ripe for picking another day.

As they will enter into the final three games of the regular season against the Braves Monday through Wednesday, what will take precedence for Philadelphia, currently losers of six straight?

Will they want to rest up to prepare for the playoffs? Will they feel an obligation to play their best, trying to re-establish some momentum? Will they have in the back of their minds which team they would prefer to play in the first round?

Perhaps if rotations were altered, starters were removed early and/or stars were given multiple days off, then questions could be raised. The motivations of the individuals and how hard the players are playing could never be measured, however.

Without even asking, we know the Phillies will say the right things. They play every game to win and the identity of their first-round opponent does not matter to them. But what are they really thinking?

It is only natural to have a preference as to their NLDS opponent. What is unnatural is that they could help decide that team based on their play in the final three games. Somehow, somewhere, the Cardinals need at least two Atlanta losses in the final six. If the Braves win and keep winning, they are in.

So, which team would the Phillies prefer to play in the NLDS? If Atlanta wins the wild card, the Phils would play Arizona, the division winner with the worst record currently. (It could be Milwaukee instead, based on how the final six games unfold.) Instead, if the Cardinals claim the wild card, they would face the Phillies in the first round.

The Cardinals are one of only two teams to take their season series against Philadelphia at six wins and three losses. (The Nationals at 10-8, including a just-completed sweep, are the other.)

Would that lack of success against St. Louis motivate the Phillies to want another shot at the streaking Cards, who took three of four from them in their house last weekend? Or would they prefer to face Arizona, against whom they split six games this year? Overall, the Snakes are 5-5 over their last ten games. (Philadelphia had a 4-3 season edge over the Brewers.)

Could all of this somehow affect how the Phillies’ approach their final three regular season games against Atlanta?

(Of course, it should go without saying that if the Cardinals don’t take care of business against the Chicago Cubs this weekend, the final three games may not matter to anyone. Specifically, a combination of five Atlanta wins and St. Louis losses, which could occur as soon as Sunday, would end the wild card race once and for all.)

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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46 Responses to “Will the Phillies determine their playoff opponent?”

  1. crdswmn says:

    This does concern me. I wonder how motivated the Phillies will be to beat Atlanta if doing so gets them the Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs. I don’t think Charlie Manuel is the type of manager to instruct his guys to take a dive. Maybe the individual players aren’t the type to do it either, at least consciously. But one has to wonder.

  2. RCWarrior says:

    Man I’ve missed the conversations about the Cards for this last week or so, unfortunately I had surgery for a detached retina and have been bedridden. But there is much to be excited about….right?

    How about WOW!….I’ve been one of TLR’s biggest critics but I’m gonna have to say that he has done an excellent job of bringing this team back into the thick of things this year. A winning september has been a rarity but the cards have been excellent this september…..and I believe that you have to give TLR the credit. He obviously has made some adjustments and those adjustments have been a tremendous success.

    I’ve wondered this very same thing crdswmn, the cards are the hottest team in baseball at present and I’m not sure the Phillies would want to play them in round one. They re in a bit of a dilemma I would say…..the phillies that is.

    But how cool to be a cards fan and have your cards still in the thick of things? Exciting times is what I call it.

    • LarryBird says:

      I hope your recovery is going good RCW. A detached retina is very serious and I pray your vision comes back to normal.
      I have always been one of Larussas’ biggest supporters but even I was hoping this would be his last year as I blamed him for our failures. I think it is only right that I must give him credit for our recent surge.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Yes, hoping you are already on the road to recovery.

  3. Brian Walton says:

    The “three second baseman lineup” for Friday:

    Jay CF, Punto SS, Pujols 1B, Berkman RF, Freese 3B, Molina C, Schumaker LF, Theriot 2B, Carpenter P.

    Furcal and Craig ride the pines.

    • blingboy says:


      Catching up on the conversation for the last couple days. Lively.

      It’s possible TLR reached into his bag of tricks for some industrial strength turd polish and put a shine on them, but I think he’s done more harm than good.

      As to Colby, nobody tells Lance to go opo and he’s done all right. It seems like somebody is going to have to just let him play on his terms and see if he has the natural talent and the smarts. From all I’ve read about how he handled the bad situation in St. Louis, I can’t see where he has the character and professionalism to succeed. I know that’s harsh, and sorry for any offense, but that’s the conclusion I reached early this season. I’m sure he’s a great guy, and I wish him well. I hope I’m proved wrong. As to Brendan, I think he’s just not quite right in the noggin. He could do all right though.

      I’m as surprised as anybody that the Cards making a drive down the stretch. Shows what I know. My work schedule is finally going to ease up in about a week and a half, maybe just in time . . .

      • RCWarrior says:

        I would agree with you at this point Bling. I doubt he will be playing two years from now. Its a sad thing for him, but its life.

        • blingboy says:

          I’m more optimistic than that, RC. I meant ‘succeed’ as in one of the movers on a winning team. IMO, on the up-side, he could be an Ankiel type. Lots of ability that shines through now and then, hangs around, finds a place to play, makes a hell of a good living by the standards the rest of us live by. At the other end, a fringy roster filler who still makes a nice living playing big league ball. Either way, nice way to make a living.

          I’m glad to hear his D has picked up. That could have been a problem going forward. He needs to buy himself time. There is the chance that, given his youth, and probably somewhat sheltered baseball life playing for his dad or with his dad always close, he was really jolted being thrown into it in a situation that wasn’t working out. Jolted beyond his capacity to function properly, and given some time and maturity, he could emerge as a star.

          Absolute worst case, there is the example set by Chris Duncan, who is doing a great job in radio and TV. Baseball can provide a nice living in multiple ways. Barring injury, I can’t see it coming to that.

  4. blingboy says:

    Tony has said he plays the lineup he thinks gives us the best chance of winning. So I’ve been contemplating tonight’s and can’t come up with the likely thought process. Any guesses? Or did he say anything pre-game? I’m not complaining, mind you. But I’d call it the ‘three utilityman lineup, rather than three 2B. Lets hope Carp gets solid D so he has a chance to go deep. Keep the pen in the pen.

    • crdswmn says:

      Skip has unholy numbers against Dempster which explains him. Furcal is out and TLR doesn’t trust Greene, so Punto at SS. Theriot at 2B is just TLR and his veteraniness.

  5. crdswmn says:

    I really miss live blogging during the game. That pretty much went by the way side this season for some reason. I thought this playoff race might revive it, but I guess not. Lack of interest? No time?

  6. blingboy says:

    I’m dreaming this right. a suicide squeeze. Holy cow.

  7. blingboy says:

    Strasburg didn’t last long. Braves up 6-1 in 5th.

  8. crdswmn says:

    Just heard Tim Hudson had to leave the Braves game with an injury. Hmmm.

  9. crdswmn says:

    Tie game. I knew they couldn’t win with only one run.

  10. crdswmn says:

    Well, I really don’t have anything to say. I had a bad feeling about this game after last night. Big momentum change that they are not likely to overcome.

  11. blingboy says:

    McClellan has had a rough year. Got fired as a starter and now he’s really let the team down as a middle reliever coming into a couple vital games. Not that it’s all on him by any means, but we might be a game out right now if he’d come in and shut them down his last couple tries.

  12. CariocaCardinal says:

    It was fun while it lasted.

  13. Brian Walton says:

    Saturday lineup:
    1. Rafael Furcal (S) SS
    2. Jon Jay (L) CF
    3. Albert Pujols (R) 1B
    4. Lance Berkman (S) RF
    5. Matt Holliday (R) LF
    6. David Freese (R) 3B
    7. Yadier Molina (R) C
    8. Skip Schumaker (L) 2B
    9. Kyle Lohse (R) P

  14. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    Who is it that gives the entire team permission to make this their personal defeat?……..their private pout? ……….. before witnesses………………. and Tony mourns with all of them……………. pathetic………

    • Brian Walton says:

      Lohse is doing his part. Not getting any support though.

    • blingboy says:

      Its real to them Westy. Tony has been telling us about the effort and intensity all season long. Didn’t you ever blow through a semester with one excuse after another keeping you from hitting the books, only to cram like a hero the last few weeks, convinced you were a good student deserving of a good grade?

      If Tony was in touch with reality, he’d be thanking the Braves for providing his team with an unearned opportunity to contend in September. That is the reality of it, after all.

      • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

        True BB…………..Tomorrow is AP last home game as a Cardinal…………….. he can’t hide it……Molina wears it….. and the rest of the team goes mental……… the only fair move Tony made was to pull Kyle…..its a team sport……we need a pinch hitter………….Descalso????????????? I pinch hit Greene because he’s pissed.

        What happened to the Cubs…….and Houston……….. Braves have to play Nationals and the Phillies???????……………… Tony smells the death………… way I hit Molina again……he isn’t dealing with the sub dialog…….

  15. blingboy says:

    I’m dreaming again. Greene takes off. Unbelievable.

  16. blingboy says:

    Sacks jammed for our bid bopper off the bench, bottom of the ninth, season on the line.

    And its .. .. .. good grief, I am dreaming, the nightmare from hell.

  17. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    Did we win?????????? or did they loose?????????? good courage by Molina and a tough AB by Theriot………………….. if we win out……….we at least tie…..this will suck the life back out of Atlanta………………

    • blingboy says:

      I think I’ll pop a cold one, and throw a fat one on the grill. e-gads. I thank the Braves for making it matter. Anything can happen in baseball, and usually does.

  18. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    We did not define that win………..only Holiday and Greene made affirmative moves……….. I start Greene tomorrow………and Laird………

  19. CariocaCardinal says:

    The big tease!

  20. Bw52 says:

    Cards win.Now if the Nationals can hold the Braves.It sure wasn`t pretty but it counts.

  21. crdswmn says:

    The Cards got a gift. Take it and behave like men.

    Things would be much more optimistic if the Phillies would stop sucking.

    • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

      The Phillies must reverse momentum………..they know that……..that losing streak in a big plus for us………They will be setting their rotation……..MLB will be leaning on them a bit,……be honest……if the braves lost another pitcher……..that won’t help revenue……….They will win 2 if not sweep……… Washington is feeding………… if they throw the game tomorrow…….you will know where AP is headed……….

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