The NL East standings can be found later on, but we've focused so much attention on that already, and little has changed. Let's shift gears, and talk about the hurdles the Phillies will have to leap in order to earn a Wild Card.
It goes without saying that everything hinges on the team playing better going forward, but you start to get a sense for how dire the situation is when you look at that list. I mean, that's practically the entire National League who hold at least a couple of games over the Phils at the moment. In fact, only four teams are further out of a playoff spot than the reigning NL East champions.
Of course there will be a lot of movement in these standings between now and September. Some of these clubs will fall out of the hunt as others separate themselves from the pack. The way things stand, it would still be a shock to the senses if Pittsburgh was there until the end,
But the point is, there are a lot of obstacles climb over even to grasp that extra ticket to October. I think the Phillies have a ton of work to do before the words "postseason" and "2012" should come up again, unless some variation of the word "miss" is in the mix as well.
vs. Colorado (25-40)
One of the few teams not above the Philadelphia for a WC spot, the Rockies should help jump start the home team. The Phils are 10-5 against the other three NL clubs below them in the standings, and 14-7 overall over teams presently under .500. And as bad as the Fightins have been recently, Colorado arguably has been worse, dropping 10 of their last 11, including a pair of home sweeps at the hands of the Angels and A's.
Not surprisingly, the Rocks own one of the top offenses in the league, thanks in part at least to Coors Field, but also not surprisingly, they are far better at home than on the road. Only the Marlins score fewer runs than Colorado in their opponents' buildings. They're also saddled with the worst team-ERA in baseball, having pretty much no effective starters in their rotation. You'd like the Phillies to sweep this team, but if they can't take two of three here, they're really in trouble.
vs. Tampa Bay (37-29)
One last interleague series on the slate, and it's a doozy. The Rays are hanging tough in the AL East, currently four back of the Yankees, and thanks to that second WC, they would make the playoffs if the season ended today.
Tampa Bay wins games on the mound, their staff in possession of the second-lowest ERA in the league. 42 times this season, they've held their opponent to four or fewer runs, with a 33-9 record in those games. We'll save you the math: that's 4-20 when they give up five-plus. TB is a middling club at the plate, so if the Phillies can build a decent lead, theoretically they should be safe -- although they've already blown 18 leads this season.
vs. Pittsburgh (34-31)
The Pirates have the second-least productive offense per game in baseball, behind only San Diego, yet they are in second place in the Central Division, and only 0.5 behind the second WC. Their pitching is keeping them in games, particularly the bullpen, which ranks second in the league.
The Phillies know all about the Pitt's pen, unfortunately. The Bucs picked up the series win in April, including a pair of walk-offs, as their relief pitching stymied the Fightins bats late in games. They allowed zero earned runs and five hits over nine innings of work in those three games. The Phils have improved a bit at the dish since then, finding ways to mix and match their lineup, but they are still lacking a bit in the clutch hits department.
vs. Miami (33-33)
The Phils welcome the Marlins to Citizens Bank Park for the third and final time this season, and are currently 3-3 against the Fish. Right now, it sets up for Cole Hamels to open the series, and while he's struggled in general of late, Miami was his kryptonite twice already this year. Cole is 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA facing the division rivals, his last outing against them on June 2 kicking off his current winless streak.
We know more or less what we're going to with the Marlins. They're an incredibly streaky team -- 8-14 in April, 21-8 in May, 4-11 so far in June, and 2-10 over their last 12. Giancarlo Stanton has cooled off considerably since their last visit, and the rest of the lineup along with him. Stanton was batting .304 with 13 HR and 39 RBI when the month began. Now he's down to .272, with one home run and three RBI over his last 15 games.
On Deck: @ New York Mets, vs. Atlanta, All-Star Break