Friday, September 26, 2008

Howard, Utley push Phillies to threshold of clinching division

(AP Photo/H. Rumph Jr.)
And just like that the magic number is down to one. With tonight's win by the Phillies over the Nationals coupled with the Mets loss to the Marlins, the Phils have widened their division lead to 2 games with 2 games left to play. That means that the Phils have to win just one more game or the Mets would have to lose one more game for the Phillies to clinch the NL East. As it is, the Phillies have at least guaranteed themselves a one game playoff for the division should they lose out and the Mets win out.

Tonight's heroes were two players who you would expect to come through when it mattered: Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. The Phillies jumped on the Nationals early when Howard hit a 3-run homer in the first inning and Utley followed in the second inning with a bases loaded 3-run double. Howard finished the day with 4 RBI after he doubled in Utley in the 2nd and the Phillies cruised to an 8-4 win. Joe Blanton started the game for the Phillies and, despite his inconsistent pitching over the last few months, ran his National League record to a perfect 4-0.

The Mets did the exact opposite of the Phillies as they fell behind the Marlins in the 1st inning and never came back, losing 6-1. The Mets then got more bad news when they watched the Brewers beat the Cubs because it pushed them a game behind Milwaukee for the Wild Card lead.

The Phillies now have 90 wins on the season. Want a good sign for the upcoming playoffs? Just look at the last three times the Phillies won 90 games in a season: 1980 (91), 1983 (90) and 1993 (97), all seasons where the Phillies went to the World Series. Sorry National League-favorite Cubs, you can't argue with history!

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