How Phils, Brewers got back in the race

Updated: September 12, 2012, 10:54 AM ET
By Buster Olney

The Crazy Stuff bar was set very high last year, when the Boston lineup of stars collapsed and the Braves' bullpen crumbled. As Evan Longoria prepared for his season-ending at-bat last year, he looked at a photographer near the Rays' on-deck circle and said, "Watch this." What we saw was something we had never seen before.

But now that the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers are both back to within four games of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL wild-card race, with 23 days left in the regular season, their climb no longer qualifies as Crazy Stuff; their climb is very plausible.

During the next eight days, the Phillies play the Miami Marlins -- a team that some evaluators believe has stopped playing -- and then the Houston Astros and New York Mets. A lot of teams are starved for starting pitching this time of year, plugging and filling their rotation, and the Phillies are running out Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and a red-hot Kyle Kendrick. Closer Jonathan Papelbon has allowed two earned runs since July 21. Heck, the Phillies might be a wild-card leader, along with the Atlanta Braves, by the start of next week.