We're into that portion of the season when the phrase "cannot afford to ....[fill in the blanks]" is uttered with increasing frequency, as in "The Phillies cannot afford to lose two out of three games to the Pirates" or "The Phils cannot afford to give up big leads on the road" or...well, you get the picture.
A road trip through the lower depths of the NL East and Central divisions yielded precious little as the Phillies split the six games with Washington and Pittsburgh. The classic formula for success hasn't changed over the years: play the tough clubs even and beat up on the other guys. Somewhere along the way that page was omitted from the Phillies' play book. Now they come home to face the Dodgers and Padres before taking on the Mets. In about a week we should have a much better picture of their post-season prospects baring some unforeseen winning streak.
Frankly, with the pitching they are running out there the chances the Phils will run off a six or seven game winning streak seem highly unlikely. The patchwork rotation is strictly of the chewing gum and baling wire variety. As I wrote a month ago, Jamie Moyer is going to give you some decent outings and he is going to get rocked; there's little in between. Kendrick has pitched well but probably over his head. Lohse remains a career mediocrity. Durbin is a work (and a hope and a prayer) in progress. Only Hamels can be relied on. That isn't a playoff rotation by any stretch. As usual with this club, it comes down to offense.
Heck, take Russell Branyan out of the mix and the offense hasn't exactly sparkled over the last two weeks. Ryan Howard is sinking like a stone, refusing (yes, refusing!!) to adjust. If he stands any further off the plate he might as well just take his hacks from the on-deck circle. You can be sure of one thing: National League pitchers have adjusted to him. Everyone was delighted when Iguchi picked up the slack when Chase went down. We learn today whether the doctors will give Utley the green light to begin gripping a bat and swinging. We know he's ready to return, but let's hope the Phillies' desperation doesn't dictate the next step.
Throughout the season it's been feast or famine with this team. When the pitching has been good the offense disappears. When the hitters are tearing the cover off the ball, the pitching heads south. Good teams put the two together. Case nearly closed.