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Joe Blanton during pregame warmups against the...Image via Wikipedia

By Spencer Fordin /

Forget about who's playing spoiler, about hoping the opposition does well against its natural rivals. The Phillies have leaped over that segment of the schedule and now find themselves in position to aid their own cause. Philadelphia, winners of 11 straight games, are close to clinching a playoff spot and can start pondering the best way to set up their rotation.

That point became clear earlier in the week, when the Phillies began mapping out their rotation for their final series against the Mets. Philadelphia reinserted Saturday starter Kyle Kendrick into the rotation between Joe Blanton (photo) and Cole Hamels, a procedural move that ensures an extra day of rest for the team's troika of experienced starters.

As things stand, Kendrick will start Saturday's middle game against the Mets, and he'll be followed by Hamels in the series finale. The Phillies will then go to Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt in the first two games against Washington, and if Philadelphia feels the need, it will have Hamels and Halladay on track to start against Atlanta in the final days of the season.

The Phillies might not need to go back to the top of their rotation, though, judging by their bulging lead in the National League East.

Philadelphia went into Friday's opener with a six-game lead over the Braves and emerged within striking distance of clinching a playoff slot. In fact, the Phillies could clinch by the end of the weekend if Atlanta cooperates.

The Phillies moved out to seven games ahead as a result of Friday's events, continuing an incredible surge. Philadelphia trailed Atlanta in the division from the last day of May through the first week of September. The Phillies forged ahead of the Braves on Sept. 7, and they've managed to forge their advantage by virtue of a 13-1 record over the last two weeks.

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