Game 162 is already here. It doesn't seem so long ago that we were shoveling snow, freezing our asses off and and clinging to every Twitpic of a Phillie with a palm tree in the background.
Now, 161 games later, we know the team's tremendous regular season will mean far less without some hardware at the end of October. Nevertheless, this group of Phillies has the opportunity to make history on the final night of the season.
Just a week ago, there was a general panic that the Phils had cost themselves a shot at the record books by playing the add-ons to their expanded roster for almost a week-straight following the clinch of their fifth consecutive NL East title.
But tonight, the club has the chance to set a new franchise record. A victory and sweep of the Braves would put them at 102 wins, a mark never before set by a Phillies team.
As if that isn't enough, just one more victory would also push manager Charlie Manuel ahead of Gene Mauch for the most wins ever by a Phillies manager.
Lineups, playoff scenarios, the pitching matchup, and a quick word on Charlie after the jump…
On Charlie Manuel
John Gonzalez put together a nice piece this morning recapping Manuel's tenure here in Philadelphia. Beginning with the manager's start as a throw-in in the Jim Thome acquisition (we kid…sort of), Gonzo takes us all the way through to Charlie's current status as one of the most revered coaches/managers in our city's history.
Manuel hasn't always been perfect. This website, for instance, has been tracking his every in-game strategic blunder since 2008.
But Charlie has had his finger on the pulse of this team in a way that possibly no other manager could. We may argue over the minutiae of which reliever to move to in the eighth or if he should have sat this guy on that day, but its nearly impossible to argue against his results.
The steward of five division titles and this town's first professional championship in 25 years, Charlie Manuel is about to become—with our apologies to the great Gene Mauch—the biggest winner in Phillies history.
Doing his best to set records for his club and manager, Joe Blanton is scheduled to take the mound tonight for the Phillies. This will be Blanton's seventh start of the season, but just his second since returning from injury.
It is unknown how long Big Joe will be allowed to go; Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick and Antonio Bastardo are all expected to throw in an effort to keep the pitchers somewhat on schedule and to ease some concerns heading in to the postseason (see: Bastardo). In the event the game breaks in just the right way and Cole Hamels is credited with the win, the Phillies will become the first team since the 1972 Orioles to have three pitchers finish the season with at least 15 wins and an ERA under 3.00.
Fighting for the Braves' Wild Card hopes is Tim Hudson. Hudson is the owner of a 16-10 record over 32 starts, a 3.23 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. In his last start against the Phils, he allowed 4 earned on 6 hits in 6 innings of work.
The Atlanta Braves are currently tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL Wild Card. All the history and records aside, this game could help to determine who the Phillies play in the NLDS.
A win against the Braves and a St. Louis victory over the Houston Astros would result in the Phillies hosting the Cards over the weekend and sending Ryan Howard to his hometown for Games 3 and (if necessary) 4. The reverse scenario would pit the Phillies in a first round matchup with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Finally, should both Atlanta and St. Louis win or lose, they would be forced to break their tie in a one-game playoff. Then again, should the Braves win the Wild Card and the Diamondbacks tie the Brewers for the second best record in the NL, the Phillies would actually square off against Milwaukee.
Got all that? Good.
Rosters for Tonight's Ballgame
Charlie Manuel's 9/28 lineup:
Rollins SS, Utley 2B, Pence RF, Howard 1B, Mayberry Jr. CF, Ibanez LF, Polanco 3B, Ruiz C, Blanton P
And for the Braves:
Bourn CF, Prado LF, Jones 3B, Uggla 2B, Freeman 1B, McCann C, Diaz RF, Wilson SS, Hudson P
First pitch is scheduled for 7:05. See you post-game.
In an unrelated Mets note, Jose Reyes was pulled from the ballgame Wednesday after reaching base in his first at bat. His BA currently sits at .3371. He has opted to sit down for the remainder of the afternoon in order to protect that average. Ted Williams frozen head is probably spinning its gra--uh, wherever it is.
To surpass him, Ryan Braun will need to go at least 3-4 tonight in order to win the NL Batting Title.
Jose Reyes—Sportsman of the Year. Leggoo Braaaunnn.