For the Phillies, the final 10 games of the regular season will be no different than spring training. They'll play meaningless baseball games.
Thanks to the Chicago Cubs' win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday night, the Phillies clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Two nights earlier, they clinched their fifth straight division title.
But the trick for the best team in the National League is to find some way to make what remains in the regular season meaningful. The Phils' 4-3 loss to St. Louis on Monday night was the sixth loss in their last ten games.
"We just got through clinching our division and everything, and we came out a little flat, but that's not going to last," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We'll be ready."
"I think it's important that we do keep that energy up and play games like there is some meaning to it," pitcher Roy Halladay said. "It's hard to just flip that switch. I think that's important going forward."
There are still milestones for the Phillies to shoot for in their final 10 games. With wins in both ends of Tuesday's doubleheader against Washington, the Phillies can become just the third team in franchise history to reach 100 wins in a season. Even if they go 4-6 in their last ten games, the Phils will eclipse the franchise single-season win total of 101 wins, set in both 1976 and 1977.
From an individual standpoint, Cliff Lee can make a push to win his first National League Cy Young Award. Lee, who won the AL Cy Young in 2008, is 6-0 with a 0.56 ERA in his last eight starts and leads the NL with six shutouts.
But the most important thing for the Phillies before the playoffs begin is to get their offense back in motion. They've scored three runs or fewer in nine of their last 10 games.
"I think we've got to show a little different look before we go into the playoffs," Manuel said. "I think we've got to start scoring some runs. We've got to score enough runs to support our pitching. I'm not talking about eight or 10 runs a night, but I am talking about four, five, six. We can do that."
Phillies Injury List Starts to Grow
Beginning Thursday, the Phillies, in the middle of a season-high five-game losing streak, have seven days to gain some momentum going into the postseason. But perhaps more important, they have ten days to get healthy.
The Phillies were swept by the Washington Nationals on Tuesday in a day-night double-header at Citizens Bank Park. Since the Phillies have already clinched the NL East and home-field advantage, more damaging than the losses were the newest injuries to an already long list.
According to manager Charlie Manuel, catcher Carlos Ruiz felt an ankle "pop" before the start of the fourth inning of the second game. After a brief delay, Ruiz remained in the game.
More troubling is the news on the new right fielder. Hunter Pence was removed from the first game in the sixth inning because of patellar tendinitis.
"I've had patellar tendinitis for forever, so it just flared up a little bit," Pence said.
Pence appeared to tweak the injury while legging out an infield single in the first inning. He went 2-for-3 before being lifted for a pinch runner in the sixth.
Pence believes he can return to the lineup as soon as Thursday.
"It's fine," Pence said. "This is the first day in Philadelphia it's flared up - it's one of those things. It's part of the game. I don't even really like to talk about it because there's a difference between injuries and being hurt. Pain is something that you deal with and you don't talk about. It's not that big a deal."
Pence's absence in the lineup for the second game of the doubleheader marked the first time he didn't start a game since joining the Phillies in a trade from Houston on July 29.
Pence wasn't the only Phillies player out of action. Ryan Howard remains sidelined after getting an anti-inflammatory shot in his ailing left foot. Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley rejoined the lineup last week after missing time with groin and concussion injuries, respectively.