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Trap Games Warning: Phillies at Marlins, 8/31-9/2

August 31: Phillies 9, Marlins 2 WP: Kendrick (8-3) LP: Mitre (5-8)
September 1: Marlins 12, Phillies 6 WP: Kim (8-6) LP: Durbin (6-4)
September 2: Marlins 7, Phillies 6 WP: Miller (5-0) LP: Davis (0-1) S: Gregg (28)

For more on the Marlins, please visit our SBN sister site Fish Stripes

Update [2007-8-31 16:21:18 by dajafi]: $*&^%&*!!! No Hamels on Sunday.

With a four-game sweep of the Mets and five straight wins to close a huge home stand, the 2007 Phillies have shown they can rise to the occasion, playing their best baseball when it seems to matter most. Now, with a holiday weekend in Florida, they have to prove they possess not only the fire to win high-stakes games played before huge crowds, but also the professionalism to take care of business against an also-ran opponent with a scant few thousand fans on hand to watch.

Under most circumstances, with the Mets in their rear-view mirror and the Braves just around the next corner, this series against the Marlins would look for all the world like the baseball equivalent of a "trap game"--that NFL phenomenon when a contending team comes off a big win against a rival, looks ahead to the game two weeks later, and suffers an embarrassing loss to a lousy opponent on the Sunday in between. Given how the Marlins have bedeviled the Phils over the last five years or so, and the fact that the two teams have split twelve contests in 2007, the visitors should be on their guard. It probably helps that the team sends perhaps its three best starters to the hill this weekend: Kyle Kendrick tonight, J.D. Durbin Saturday, and the return of Cole Hamels for Sunday's finale.

They will have their work cut out for them against a Florida offense that is fifth in the NL with 644 runs scored. Were the Marlins in contention, shortstop Hanley Ramirez would be in the running for MVP honors; as it is, he is very quietly putting up a superlative season (.331/.388/.557, 23 HR, 42 SB). You might have heard that Miguel Cabrera (.315/.395/.579, 30 HR) is pretty good too. Dan Uggla and Josh Willingham can mash as well, with 27 and 21 home runs respectively. All four have great numbers against the Phillies this season, as does first baseman Mike Jacobs (.379/.455/.759 in 29 at-bats).

That said, if the Phillies keep hitting the way they have over the last week it might not matter. Ryan Howard is 15 for his last 30 with three homers, Pat Burrell is 9 for 26 with five home runs, Jayson Werth is 14 for his last 24 and reaching base at a .630 clip, Chase Utley is 6 for 15 with a homer since returning from the DL, and Jimmy Rollins is 12 for 32 with two doubles, two homers and two steals. As a team, the Phils are hitting .347/.401/.569 for their last seven games.

A series win in Miami would go a long way toward consolidating the ground gained in the last five days, just as a series loss would somewhat knock the team back into limbo. One thing about the stretch drive is that the tests never end.