Phillies have unusual cushion in NL East

Phillies have unusual cushion in NL East

MIAMI -- The Phillies came into the second game of a four-game series against the Marlins at Land Shark Stadium on Friday with a level of easiness they haven't felt the last couple of years.

In winning back-to-back National League East crowns, Philadelphia has been in tight races and needed to get hot -- smoking hot -- in the last couple of months of the regular season to pull off an automatic trip to the postseason.

But thanks to a seven-inning gem by Jamie Moyer and a multi-homer game by Raul Ibanez on Thursday, the Phillies are now a season high five games up in the East.

At this point the last two years, though, things were slightly different.

Coming out of the All-Star break before winning a World Series last season, the Phillies were a mere game up in the standings and didn't have more than a three-game cushion the entire second half. And everyone knows what happened in 2007, when the Phillies went from seven games back on Sept. 12 to a division crown on Sept. 30.

But while this year -- at least so far -- has offered a bit of a change of pace, manager Charlie Manuel prefers what happened the previous two seasons instead.

"These guys have heard me say it last year when we won the World Series: One of the biggest things I liked about it is we got a lot left," Manuel said. "We kept playing and playing and playing, and you know the old saying, you cross the finish line and look back, and we won. Somebody told us to go home; that means we won. I like that attitude better than speculating how many games you're going to win and how many games you're going to lose and stuff like that. We play for today. We don't get ahead of ourselves."

The Phillies -- losers of 11 of 13 from mid to late June -- have won six straight games and 10 of their last 11.

And this seems like just about the time they start to get hot.

Since 2005, Manuel has guided the Phillies to a 174-115 record in games after the All-Star break. Going into Friday, Philadelphia's win total in that time frame leads all NL teams and is tied for second in the Majors with the Angels. The .602 winning percentage it amounts to is second in the Majors to the Yankees.

"I think we stay with it," Manuel said. "We're resilient. We like to play. We just go out there with the same [mindset] every day. I think at least we got a plan, and I think if it works, stay with it. I think that's kind of who we are. We don't want to look ahead, and we don't want to look behind. We don't want to overreact to winning, and we don't want to get down when we lose."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.