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Game 97: Padres at Phillies, July 22, 2005

In a 162-game baseball season, it always feels faintly silly to take one, two or even three games before September and declare them "crucial," or even worse, "must-win." But it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the Phillies face such a series at home this weekend against the NL West-leading Padres. The last two days of losses to a Dodgers club filled with "just happy to be here" borderline big-leaguers undid much of the good work the Phils turned in during their previous two series wins against Washington and Florida, and now they're again just a half-game out of last place in the still-tight NL East. A sweep, and they're five games over .500, almost certainly "buyers" in the trade sweepstakes, looking to take the good vibes on the road. Three losses and they're back under the break-even mark, traveling to Houston for matchups against Clemens, Oswalt and Pettitte, and probably looking to their resumes, and/or 2006. (Something in between, and the frustrating limbo alluded to by columnist Phil Sheridan in Friday's Inquirer continues.) No pressure, fellas.

The San Diego lineup, used to cavernous Petco Field, will probably feel like they're back in Little League upon visiting CBP and its cozy dimensions. Vicente Padilla, who comes in with a 13-inning scoreless streak, will have to play the role of the mean, weird pitcher who scared us all the way back to the dugout. He'll be opposed by 23 year-old righty Tim Stauffer.

3-5 Record 5-8
71.1 IP 67.1
4.42 ERA 5.61
44 K 44
24 BB 39
7 HR 14
Dodgers Phillies
CF D. Roberts SS J. Rollins
2B M. Loretta CF K. Lofton
RF B. Giles 2B C. Utley
LF R. Klesko RF B. Abreu
1B P. Nevin LF P. Burrell
SS K. Greene 1B R. Howard
C R. Hernandez 3B D. Bell
3B G. Blum C M. Lieberthal
P T. Stauffer P V. Padilla