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Series Forty-Seven: Marlins at Phillies

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We're getting down to it. There are just 22 games left on the schedule and the Marlins are only half a game back of the Wild Card-leading Astros. This weekend's series against the Phillies is critical to both teams as they make their final playoff push.

The Marlins are on a bit of a hot streak and have put some distance between themselves and the Nationals and Mets. While those two teams are still in the race, they're on the outside looking in. Depending on how this weekend's series goes, the Phillies could find themselves on the outside too.

We sat down with the Phillie Phanatic to talk about things.

: Phanatic - welcome back to FishStripes. This sure is a great playoff race we're having. I don't think the Braves can be caught, but (much like in 2003) either the Marlins or Phillies could still end up in the post-season.

What I'm worried about is that since there are so many teams clumped together at the top that we could see a tie or a multi-way tie for the Wild Card this year. What will they do if that happens?

: I've been thinking about that lately. I even asked around a little. I got some info, but I'm not sure if it's definite.

Apparently there's some discretion that can be used here. Back in 2003 - when there were some other close races - MLB issued this press release, which layed out the rules for how ties would be handled.

I would assume that we would see something similar this season. A two-way tie is fairly simple: you have a one game playoff.

A three-way tie is more complex. Scenario #4 addressed this in 2003. It's fairly complex, but essentially the three tied teams play a three game playoff. One team will get a favorable draw (in that they'd only have to play and win one game). That team would either be the team with the best head-to-head record against the other clubs, or (and I'm not making this up) the team that got the preferential draw of names out of a hat (if all three teams were tied).

A four-way tie is more complex - but also much less likely. At this point (knock on wood) the Wild Card race seems like it will come down to the Phillies, Marlins, and Astros. But if it happens, this is how it will work (scenario #6 from the link above): there will be a two-round playoff (one game each) between the four teams. Matchups will be drawn out of a hat. Two games the first day (home team designations and matchups dictated by how they come out of the hat) and then the two winners play again the next day. The winner of the second game advances to the "real" playoffs and is the Wild Card winner.

: Wow. That's really complicated. And it seems somewhat unfair. I mean, these teams are going to play 162-games and their playoff fate can be determined by how Bud Selig pulls a piece of paper out of a hat? Wow.

: Yeah, it doesn't seem right. But a tie is messier for more reasons than that. If a tied team has to play one (or two) "playoff" games to get into the playoffs, they're going to have to use their top pitcher(s). That means their rotation won't be set - but that the Cardinals and Braves (their likely opponent) will get another day to rest.

: A three or four-way tie scenario would certainly be exciting. But I can't say that I'm hoping for it to happen.

And now that we've talked about it, we've probably clinched the playoff berth for the Astros.

: Indeed. We suck.

: Indeed.

: It's almost a shame that we're in this tight playoff race. I was hoping to see some of the Marlins' prospects. I see that Hermida, Andino, Wilson, Johnson, and a number of other youngsters are up.

: You'll probably see Hermida and you're also likely to see Johnson (as a starter or a reliever), but the other guys are pretty much relegated to mop-up duty (per Jack - at least as long as the Fish are still in the hunt).

: I suppose that's all right. I'll see enough of those guys in the coming years. I'm sure I'll come to fear them just like I already fear Cabrera, Willis, and the rest of the crew.

: Speaking of a crew, I still can't get over the Phillies center field tandem. Coming into the year, this was supposed to be the Phils big weakness. Like the old NFL saying goes, if you have two center fielders (quarterbacks), you really have none. But the Phillies are making it work.

: They certainly are. There have definitely been ups and downs, but on the whole, things have been pretty good. Kenny Lofton and Jason Michaels have combined to exceed everyone's expectations this year. Lofton's line is .309/.368/.383. Jason Michaels has a line of .314/.407/.425.

Between them, they'll log 650 - 700 at bats. Their defense is good enough. The downside is they haven't gotten much power out of them (5 homers combined) or many steals (2 - both by Lofton). The Phillies aren't going to say that their CF tandem rivals Andruw Jones or Jim Edmonds. But Michaels and Lofton have done more than enough to keep the Phils in the race.

: Thanks for your time, Phanatic. Good luck this weekend.