Philadelphia Phillies Take Their Place atop the NL East

Written By Bob Cunningham On Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Polanco's RBI knocked the Phillies into first place.


With an 8-7 win over the Florida Marlins on Tuesday night, the Philadelphia Phillies got back to a place that many people thought they might never see again -- first place in the NL East.

The game was winding down when the result of the Atlanta Braves' game came in. The Braves dropped a game to the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates 5-0, and first place was just sitting there in front of the Phils waiting to be taken.

Mike Stanton and a Ryan Madson wild pitch gave the Phillies a scare, but they did what a first place team should do and pulled it out in the end with some clutch hitting and baserunning by Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco.

But now that they're in first place, the hard part starts. They have the bullseye on their backs and can't afford to get into a funk at any point in the final three weeks (or so) of the season. One wrong move and they could find themselves behind the Braves without much of a shot at redemption.

The Phils and Braves both close out the season with a gauntlet of NL East teams, including six games against one another, so Charlie Manuel's group will have to play their very best baseball every single game.

You can bet the Nationals, Mets, and Marlins will be doing everything they can to play spoiler and would love nothing more than to knock one of their NL East rivals out of the playoffs altogether.

If you're looking for a guy to watch, make it Victorino.

If Manuel keeps him in the leadoff spot, a spot in which he's flourished, the Flyin' Hawaiian can do some serious damage. Hitting him in the seventh spot hasn't had the effect they've wanted, and with Jimmy Rollins showing a lot of versatility in the lineup, Victorino could remain at the top of the lineup.

If you're looking for a guy who could potentially be the goat, look no further than Joe Blanton or Jayson Werth.

Blanton has been unbelievably erratic on the mound, either giving up nothing or putting his team into a huge hole right from the get-go. He's played well down the stretch in the past, but he hasn't done a lot this year to breed any confidence that he'll be able to make a turn-around.

In that same vein, Werth has not been nearly as good as his numbers would suggest. Most of his hits have been meaningless with the bases empty, and anyone even showing menial interest knows the historic struggles Werth has been having with runners in scoring position.

The last thing Werth has been is clutch, and at this point I'm about as confident that Werth will get the clutch hit as I am that Cole Hamels will.

So even though the Phils are in first right now, they've shown how easy it is for a team to sneak up and steal that spot. It's important that Manuel doesn't allow his team to get complacent in the slightest, or it could turn into an ugly September.


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