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Would it be SO bad if the Phillies won the NL Wild Card?

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"KEEP ON PHIGHTIN' WITH JOE VALLEE"

If the season were to end today, the Phillies would be the National League Wild Card winner, the Braves would win the NL East, the Reds would be the winner of the NL Central, and the Padres would sit atop the NL West.

As of right now, there is plenty of time to gain ground on the Braves for the division crown, but the Phillies collectively cannot find their batting stroke. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard look completely lost at the plate as the team was one-hit by Phillies killer Hiroki Kuroda  Monday night. Adding to the frustruation in all of this is that the Braves are truly playing like a team possessed.

As you all know, matchups in the playoffs (no matter what sport it is) can make or break a potential champion. For example:

Would the Flyers have made the Stanley Cup this year if they ran into the Penguins or Capitals? 

Would the Sixers have won the NBA title in 1981 against a sub-.500 Houston Rockets team if they didn't play the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals? 

What if the 2008 Phillies played the Red Sox in the World Series instead of Tampa Bay?

So just for fun, I decided to take a look into my crystal ball and see what could lie ahead for our Fightins in a very early, possible playoff scenario. Take note that the following observations are based on the baseball season ending today. NOTHING is etched in stone here. As we all know, MUCH can happen in the next 30 days.

Since teams in the same division (Braves and Phillies) cannot face each other in the NLDS, Atlanta and Cincinnati would face off in the first round of this year's post season. This could be a draw. The Braves were 3-2 against the Reds in 2010, and allowed just as many runs as they scored on offense. The Braves seem like they win these days on command, so I'll put my money on Atlanta.

The Phillies, who just came off a sweep of the Padres at PETCO Park, would return to the scene of the crime in the NLDS. The good news for the Phillies is that they have now swept a series at PETCO in 2004, 2005, 2009, and 2010. That especially speaks volumes for this season due to the Padres currently owning the best record in the NL. To be fair, the Phils didn't blow the Padres out of the water this weekend. And on Sunday, the Padres threw the ball around like they were the Bad News Bears. Nonetheless, the Phillies' playoff experience and strong starting pitching could be a better matchup against a young and inexperienced potential playoff team like San Diego. The Phillies are up and down like a roller coaster all season, but I like this matchup. This is a much better matchup than if the Phils were to play........

The Cincinnati Reds. Potential Triple Crown winner Joey Votto and company have arguably the best offense in the league. While the Phillies' starters may be able to somewhat contain them, Reds' left-handed relievers Arthur Rhodes and recently recalled Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman would be pure hell for the left handed hitting trio of Utley, Howard, and Raul Ibanez in the later innings.

If healthy and effective, Chapman could turn out to be one of the biggest difference makers If healthy and effective, Aroldis Chapman could turn out to be one of the biggest difference makers during the stretch run as well as the playoffs for the Cincinnati Reds. Photo:http://www.whackreds.com/images/aroldis_chapman_3710.jpg during the stretch run as well as the playoffs for the Reds if he makes the post season roster. Chapman was clocked at 105 mph Saturday night in a minor league game. The radar guns at minor league parks are known to be jacked up a little bit, but where there's smoke there's fire, and Chapman can't be too far off from that number if he's not already there. Very scary.

Cincinnati's offense is most likely strong enough to offset a playoff inexperienced Reds pitching staff (with the exception of Bronson Arroyo). Veterans Scott Rotten (sorry, I meant Rolen), Orlando Cabrera, and Ramon Hernandez will be counted in for leadership, as they are the only three members of their starting eight with playoff experience.

Final Thought:

If the Phillies do take the Wild Card, it wouldn't be the worst thing to let the Braves and Reds battle it out in the NLDS. This however, could be a double edged sword, as the Phillies would not have home field advantage against the Reds or Braves if they advance to the NLCS. While the Phillies are the only team to take two out of three from the Braves at Turner Field this year, the Braves seem to be playing with a kind of magic similar to what the Yankees had last year, or even the Phillies had in 2008. The crystal ball is a little foggy from this point, but will most likely clear up in the coming weeks.

Whether the Phillies start to hit or not, don't expect an easy ride by any stretch if the team is lucky to make the post season this year. If you thought the last two years of the post season were stressful, the talent pool for this year's post season is young and hungry. The Phillies can't do anything about their age, but if they can get hungry again, they can use their prior playoff experience to their advantage.

In the meantime, Keep On Phightin.'

This Date in Phillies History: August 31st, 1993

Ben Rivera throws a four-hit shutout at Wrigley Field as the Phillies beat the Cubs 7-0.

 

Joe Vallee is a lifelong Phillies fan and former Phillies batboy. Joe has claimed to have seen about 98% of every Phillies game since the early 1980's.

Contact Joe at jvallee@philly2philly.com