MILWAUKEE If this is playoff-preview week then the Phillies might like what they see in October.
Fresh off a three-game sweep of Atlanta, a potential playoff opponent, the Phillies took it to another possible October foe in a 7-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on Thursday night.
Cole Hamels delivered his 14th win and third complete game of the season.
The Phils magic number for winning their fifth straight National League East title is 11. They need to win 10 of their final 22 games to reach 102 wins, which would be a franchise record.
The NL playoff foursome is basically set with the Phillies, Braves, Brewers and Diamondbacks all essentially in the October tournament.
The Phils are 14-11 against those teams for the season, but 8-2 against them since the start of July.
Arizona or Milwaukee could bea first-round opponent for the Phils. They would get Atlanta or one ofthe other two intheNL Championship Series.
Of course, this is predicated on the Phillies getting to the NLCS. A team cannot afford a bad stretch in October as the Phils learned last year when they were knocked out by San Francisco.
I just know weve got to keep plugging along, Hamels said. When its all said and done, well get excited. We have experience and weve been there before. We dont want to take anything for granted. The last five years weve played till the last game of the regular season. We want to take all the energy and positive vibes we can into the postseason.
Hamels allowed just four hits two of them were homers in his nine innings of work. He did not have strikeout stuff he recorded just two of them but he had winning stuff. He held Milwaukees two MVP candidates, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, to a single in eight combined at-bats. He pushed his pitch count to 111. In three starts since coming off the disabled list after a bout of shoulder inflammation, Hamels has shown himself to be healthy and on a good track.
I knew where I was when I made my first start off the DL, Hamels said. It was just a matter of manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee letting me go. People will always put a question mark on you when you go on the disabled list. Its just a matter of showing everyone.
It was just a few days ago that Cliff Lee said he does not draw any motivation from keeping up with his brethren on baseballs best starting rotation. Hamels is not Lee. He actually derives a push from his rotation mates. Thats why he wanted that complete game.
Im trying to keep up with these guys in complete games, he said. Im trying to compete with these guys in complete games.
For the record, Lee has six and Roy Halladay has 7. The Phillies have 17 as a staff, the most in the majors.
Starting pitching wasnt the only bright spot for the Phillies in the win. The offense produced seven two-out runs with Hunter Pence driving in three of them with a double and a triple. Wilson Valdez, John Mayberry Jr. and Ben Francisco all drove in runs in a six-run sixth.
Manuel gave Ryan Howard the night off against lefty Chris Narveson. Chase Utley was back in Philadelphia with what general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. called a "mild concussion" after being plunked in the head by a pitch Wednesday night, and Jimmy Rollins, though active, is still recovering from a groin strain. So the Phillies pulled off this win against a top team with a bunch of reserves in the lineup. Not too shabby.
When your reserves get in there they want to show theyve earned the right to be on the team and contribute, Manuel said. That can bring your team completely together. I guarantee you they feel good about themselves.
How could the Phillies not feel good about themselves?
They have 92 wins, including four straight against the Braves and Brewers. They are intent on finishing the regular season strong, but really, the playoffs cant get here fast enough.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at email@example.com.