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Four Reasons We're Playoff-Bound

Can it be? Can this year be the year the Phils stop playing the sorry stepsister and actually be the pretty one who makes it?

With 7 games left and up in the Wild Card standings by half a game, the Phils' fate is in their own hands. Here are four reasons the team will finally end its 13 year playoff drought:

1) Howard and Hamels. These two are the most exciting combination of players on the Phllies since Schmidt and Carlton. We all know what kind of careers those two had, and the future looks just as bright for Howard and Hamels. Of course, unpredictable bumps in the road are the nature of the game, so I won't get into long-term projections here, but in the short-term, these two are taking the team to the promised land. Howard has been baseball-godly since the All-Star break, sporting a .500+ OBP and an .800+ SLG since then. Read that again: he's getting on base more than half the time he's at the plate and slugging at an all-time great rate. Hamels' has pitched brilliantly since then as well, with a 3.31 ERA and a 10.4 K/9 rate. Take out his meltdown in Chicago in August and his ERA is 2.84. These two kids can play. The only downside is that Hamels pitching every game from here on out is against the laws of nature.

2) Utley and Rollins. Chase Utley's season has been streakier than a mallrat's hair, but he seems to be coming into one of his mash-the-hell-out-of-the-ball streaks just as the season is ending. Utley's had 9 September home runs and 18 RBI. In his last 7 games, Utley has been on base at a .556 clip and has slugged a Howard-esque .806. Rollins, a streaky hitter in his own right who is seemingly prone to even bigger highs and lows than Utley, has been just as potent of late. He has an incredible 4 home runs in the past 7 games. Even better for Rollins, he has a .371 OBP in those games, which for him is unbelievable. With Rollins' and Utley's power and out-avoidance at the top of the lineup and Howard batting after them, this offense is humming.

3) Defense. We all know defense wins games. At least, that's part of what idiotic commentators tell us. Regardless of whether that's true (it's not), the Phils' defense has been excellent since gazelle-like Victorino has taken over in center and the agile Nunez has taken over at third. Neither is lighting the ball on fire at the plate, but both are doing more than their fare share to solidify what had previously been a weakness for the team. To put a number to this, from August 22 (when Rowand went down) through Sunday's game, the team's defensive efficiency ratio has been .713. That number, if done over the course of the entire season, would tie San Diego for the best in the league. With such a great defense of late, it's no wonder the team's pitching has been much improved.

4) Law of averages. In three of the past five years, the Phils have broken our hearts with close finishes resulting in no playoffs. It's time the law of averages kicks in and relieves our suffering. The baseball gods can't be this mean. Can they?