Watch the Philadelphia Phillies closely this weekend.
The Phillies, who have won four straight and eight of 11, might finally be getting hot.
And on Friday night, they begin a three-game series in Atlanta with left-hander Cole Hamels making his first start since agreeing to a six-year, $144 million extension.
Will the series determine whether the Phillies are buyers or sellers? Their general manager, Ruben Amaro Jr., does not necessarily think in those terms.
But Amaro did not deny that the outcome will influence his thinking on trades.
The Phillies are 14½ games out in the NL East and 9½ back in the race for the second wild card.
“I think it’s going to have an impact,” Amaro said. “We have to play well against these guys. They’re a very tough team. We don’t necessarily have to sweep ‘em. But it’s important for us to win the series.
“If we don’t win two of three, it’s not the end of the world. But it certainly doesn’t help us.”
On the other hand, if the Phillies continue their surge, they easily could lose interest in trading players such as outfielders Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence.
The team has sold more than 3 million tickets. First baseman Ryan Howard, second baseman Chase Utley and right-hander Roy Halladay are back from injuries. Ownership will be reluctant to concede if the postseason is still within reasonable reach.
“One day at a time,” Amaro said. “I don’t really view us as a buyer or seller. We’re trying to improve, whether it’s improving for this year or beyond.”
The matchups for the Phillies-Braves series are Hamels vs. right-hander Ben Sheets, Joe Blanton vs. Mike Minor and Halladay vs. Tim Hudson.