The Baseball Desert

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Neck and neck

The Phillies sent an emphatic message to the Marlins last night, riding Vincente Padilla's eight shutout innings to a 14-4 victory at Veterans' Stadium. The clubs, now separated by a mere 1/2 game in the Wild Card race, will face each other a further five times before the end of the season, and those five games may well hold the key to the whole thing. If either ballclub manages to put together a string of victories against the other club, they'll have every chance of making the playoffs. What would harm both clubs' chances, however, is a continuation of the see-saw that's been going on in the NL all season - if the clubs split those crucial games, it would leave the door open for the Dodgers and / or the Cubs to make a run at the Wild Card spot, since they are only a couple of games out of first place and playing against teams that are either more or less out of contention (San Diego, Arizona, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati) or more or less already assured of a playoff spot (San Francisco).

Unlike the Marlins and the Phillies, the Cubs obviously also have a legitimate chance of winning the division, if the Astros slip up somewhere along the way. It's a big "if" given the Astros' current hot streak - they hit six home runs in a 14-4 victory over the Rockies in the rarified Colorado air - but you never know.

Today's advice is therefore simply this: keep your eyes on the National League - it's where it's all happening...