The Phillies passed the obvious survival test when they won series against NL East rivals Washington and Florida separated by the All-Star break.
The Phils went 5-2 in those series, which helped them narrow the gap between them, the East-leading Nationals (5 1/2 games) and wild-card-leading Braves (four games).
"I have to admit, I looked up to see what Washington was doing," Charlie Manuel said after Saturday's win. "And when I did that I saw the Braves' score posted up there.
"I don't like doing that because it's a little too early to do it."
Now comes the tricky part -- not losing the gains they have made when they face a couple of struggling teams from the all-around scuffling NL West. The last time the Phillies played games against the NL West they started a 12-1 homestand by beating up on the Giants and Diamondbacks.
This time they host the Dodgers and Padres, with three games against L.A. starting Tuesday. While the Phillies have been wounded by injuries to LHP Randy Wolf (elbow surgery), 1B Jim Thome (elbow tendinitis) and, more recently, 3B David Bell (back spasms), no team has been beaten down by its injury troubles more than the Dodgers.
The coming week will offer a crucial gauge for G.M. Ed Wade, who must figure out whether he should bolster the team's starting rotation with a veteran for the stretch run, or consider trading veterans like LHP Billy Wagner, who is in the final year of his contract and a hot commodity for teams seeking help at the closer spot. If the Phillies have strong performances against the Dodgers and the Padres ?- who, amazingly, went 15-22 from June 1 until the All-Star break and expanded their lead in the West -? then it's almost certain that there will be no fire sale in Philadelphia.
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