Phillies rotation key to late surge

It probably comes as no surprise that the Philadelphia Phillies' run into the wild-card picture has been fueled by excellent starting pitcher. Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley has the details here:

      Among all NL starters who have faced at least 100 batters since the break, (Cliff) Lee, (Kyle) Kendrick, and (Cole) Hamels rank eighth, ninth, and tenth, respectively and are only three of 16 pitchers to have a sub-3.00 ERA in that span of time. ...

Kendrick, on the other hand, has benefited from a combination of luck and skill. There is no question the 2012 version of Kendrick is the best to date. His second-half 18 percent strikeout rate easily surpasses his 12 percent career average and he has been very stingy with the walks as well (five percent). He is getting ground balls at a 50 percent clip since returning from the All-Star break, a rate that would be his highest in any full season at the Major League level. Kendrick does have a .234 BABIP in his last eight starts, though, indicating that some of his recent success has been a fluke, especially compared to his career .285 BABIP, which is still 15 points under the National League average.

The Phillies' offense hasn't done much in the second half, ranking 11th in the NL in runs scored, ninth in OBP and ninth in slugging percentage. Ryan Howard's raw numbers aren't good since the break -- .226/.310/.417 -- although RBI lovers will note that he's knocked in 40 runs in 55 games. Still, it's the pitching that will have to get the Phillies to the postseason. I'd still rate the Cardinals as the favorite to hold on -- they have six games left against the Astros and three against the Cubs -- but the Phillies would be my second choice.