I was rooting for the Marlins last night, but when they fell to the Braves 7-5 in 10 innings, an hour or so after the Phillies finished off the Reds in a 5-4 win, the Phils found themselves in a position they haven't enjoyed in nearly four years: leading the NL East by more than a game. They're a game and a half ahead of second-place Florida going into play tonight.
The last time the Phillies enjoyed a bigger lead was July 10, 2004, when they lost 4-0 to Atlanta but maintained their two-game edge over the Braves and Mets. They fell out of first place for good 13 days later, and the Larry Bowa Firing Watch was officially on. The Phils spent all of one day in first during the 2005 season, and that day was April 4. That was one day more than the following season, when the team never ran in front; last year, of course, the Phils spent only two days in first, but the second was the last day of the season.
Charlie Manuel said recently that he'd like to see how the team responds to a sizable lead in the East. They aren't there yet, but they haven't been this close to true front-running in four years.