Inside the Phillies: Just how many wins over 100 can the Phillies go?

The Phillies' Placido Polanco congratulates Ryan Madson after Madson picked up his 30th save in the Phils' 3-2 victory.
The Phillies' Placido Polanco congratulates Ryan Madson after Madson picked up his 30th save in the Phils' 3-2 victory. (JEFFREY PHELPS / Associated Press)
Posted: September 11, 2011

MILWAUKEE - It has been well-established that the Phillies have no regular-season peer, especially in the National League.

You can look up, down, and all around the league standings and not find another team within double digits of the best team in baseball.

The story no longer is about the Phillies winning a fifth straight National League East title or finishing with the best record in baseball for a second straight season.

It is about how many games the Phillies are going to win - 106 is the pick here - and how many games behind the rest of the league will be.

And, of course, ultimately it will be about whether they can win it all and be one of baseball's all-time truly special teams.

In this regular season that now has just 20 games remaining, the challenges have been no challenge for these unflappable Phillies.

The schedule says it's time to play seven straight games against the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers, two teams they could face again in the postseason, and the undaunted Phillies roll right over both teams, stringing together six straight victories.

The injury report says manager Charlie Manuel must make out a lineup without first baseman Ryan Howard, second baseman Chase Utley, and shortstop Jimmy Rollins in two of the first three games here at Miller Park, and the unfazed Phillies roll right along.

After Saturday night's 3-2, grind-it-out, 10-inning victory over the Brewers at Miller Park, the mood in the visitors clubhouse remained steady as ever.

Cliff Lee's string of three straight scoreless starts came to an end, but he was matter-of-factly pleased after giving up two runs - only one was earned - in seven innings.

"We won, and that's what really matters," Lee said. "Any time we win, it's hard to complain."

Winning, of course, has been a habit since opening day for this team.

"We think we're going to win when we show up at the ballpark," Manuel said. "That's how we play, and that's what works for us. If you're around our team, you don't hear too many guys talk about losing or winning."

They just play and let the chips fall where they may, probably because they know that talent is on their side.

The Phillies' magic number to clinch the division title has been reduced to seven and their lead over the Braves and Brewers is 12 games.

"I'm happy with that number where we're at," Manuel said. "Is it amazing? That's what we play for. If we could be 20 up we would be."

As unchallenged as the Phillies have been, Manuel does have some issues that must be dealt with between now and the start of the postseason.

Antonio Bastardo, for instance, has shown signs of being human and being fatigued. In two of his last three outings, he has failed to record an out and allowed a total of four runs, which is the same amount he allowed in 17 games from July 23 through Sept. 2.

"I need rest right now," Bastardo told The Inquirer's Matt Gelb at the start of this series. "My arm's not hurt. It's just tired."

Manuel knows Bastardo is in uncharted territory in terms of single-season relief innings and appearances, but the manager does not want the tired seed planted in the young lefty's head.

"He just needs to go out there and have a good inning," Manuel said. "I think he'll be fine. I actually haven't seen him turn [the ball] loose [lately]. He could be [tired], but I don't want to make him tired."

As great as the starters have been - and Lee was spectacular on Saturday night, too - Manuel is going to need a solid back end of the bullpen if the Phillies are going to duplicate their magical regular season when the games mean the most come October.

In that respect, there are guys in the bullpen who could still be jockeying for position and Manuel's trust as the season's conclusion draws near.

Brad Lidge, with a 1.35 ERA in 17 appearances, keeps getting the job done and did so again with a scoreless eighth. Rookie Mike Stutes looked like the guy who dominated April with a perfect ninth, and Ryan Madson reached the 30-save plateau in his first full season as a closer by blanking the Brewers in the 10th.

It all made for another special night for the Phillies in a season filled with them, but there was no special feeling in the clubhouse.

"We have a big lead and we're certainly a good team," Lee said. "We've been playing good the whole time. We're pretty happy with where we're at, but we still want to continue to win games and finish strong."


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or @brookob on Twitter.

 

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