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Manuel keeps Phillies focused

Manuel keeps Phillies focused

MILWAUKEE -- The Phillies have nine games to play, and no matter what happens to anybody else, they need to win just four of those games to clinch their third consecutive National League East championship.

That should be comforting to Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.

Pulse
Phillies at a glance
2009 record: 93-69
2008 record: 92-70
NL East champs
NLCS matchup:
Phillies at Dodgers
Postseason tix: Information

WHO ARE THESE GUYS?
Madson: Back in business
Werth: Heart of the order
Rollins: Awaiting breakout
Focus: One game at a time
Manuel: Mix & match
Howard: Ready for lefties
Stairs: Shot reverberates
Manuel: New rules for 'pen
Blanton: Arm around team
Pedro: Return to spotlight
Ibanez: Eyes on prize
Rollins: '07 irrelevant
Lidge: Still an option
Lidge: Killer cutter
Roster: Mulling options
Ibanez: Perfect fit
Hamels: Path of the pros
Amaro: Bold decisions
Pedro: Elated to play part
Rollins: No more predictions
Hamels: Back in business
Pitching: Staff in flux
Manuel: Keeps 'em focused
Hamels: Aims for dominance
Lineup: Imperfect but solid
Lee: Ready for playoff debut
Howard: The evolution
Rollins: Excelling on defense
Rotation: Not just big two
Manuel: Steady as she goes
Rollins: Eyes on '09 drama
Howard: The 'Big Piece'
Lee: Lifting Phils' hopes

And it would be, except it is his job to make sure his team wins those four games. It is his job to keep his team focused, motivated and determined when everybody around them is talking to them like they have everything wrapped up.

That can be a challenge, but Manuel has done a pretty good in the past of pushing the right buttons.

"We don't expect no slack," Manuel said. "We take it day by day. That's how we play. If we stay focused, if we stay even-keeled, we won't get high or low. Then, when we get knocked down, we can get up quicker."

Manuel is managing a team that has 12 current or former All-Stars (Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Brad Lidge, Pedro Martinez, Jamie Moyer and Chan Ho Park), two former MVPs (Rollins and Howard) and two former Cy Young winners (Lee and Martinez).

The Phillies have a ton of talent, but Manuel remembers what happened to the 2007 Mets. They blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play to give the Phillies their first NL East title since 1993. He also remembers that as well as the Phillies played down the stretch that year -- they finished 13-4 -- the Rockies played even better and swept them in the NL Division Series. It is Manuel's job to keep that in the back of his mind, and hope that his players keep that in the back of their minds, too.

"Until you've clinched something, then the other team has a chance," he said. "You can say anything you want to. The Braves could run the board. Hey, Colorado went 25-1, or something, a couple years ago.

"That's not out of the question. Is it hard? Yeah, it's going to be hard for [the Braves]. But it's not out of the question by [any] means."

Manuel was asked if he feels like the only person who thinks that way in the Phillies' clubhouse.

"I think some of them do [feel the same way]," he said. "Nothing is sure. But at the same time, I want us to play like we always do, like we play every day. That's what we've been preaching for the past few years. Our team buys into that and they're good at that. That's how they want to play."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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