PHILADELPHIA - Temperatures soared into the 90s the past few days.
The smoke from area Fourth of July fireworks has faded away.
Summer is here and if the Phillies are serious about contending for a playoff spot it's time for them to start winning.
The Phillies began a pivotal 10-game homestand that leads into the All-Star break with a 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves on Friday night. The first-place Braves (49-37) began Saturday with a 7-game lead on the third-place Phillies (41-45) in the National League East. The two teams played Saturday night and conclude their three-game series at 1:35 p.m. today.
Is this 10-game stretch a make-or-break homestand for the Phillies?
"We'll know a lot more about our team after this homestand," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said before Friday's game. "I don't like to speak in absolutes, but it's an important one. There's no question about that."
There's also no question that how the Phillies perform on this homestand could decide whether Philadelphia is a buyer or a seller at the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline. Amaro said trade talk has picked up in recent days.
"I hope we're adding to this team," Amaro said. "But like I always say, the players will dictate that with their play."
Amaro said if the Phillies add a player at the trade deadline it would most likely be in the bullpen. The Phillies began Saturday with a bullpen ERA of 4.53, which ranks last in the National League.
If the Phillies do trade a player, it could be anyone. Amaro said no one is untouchable even popular second baseman Chase Utley, who will be a free agent at the end of the season.
"I see (Chase) as a Phillie for life," Amaro said. "But I'm not the most stubborn human being on the planet."
But while Phillies management ponders breaking up the team, Philadelphia has an opportunity to get back in playoff contention this homestand.
After three games with the Braves, the Phillies host the second-place Washington Nationals for four contests. The homestand ends next weekend with three games against the Chicago White Sox for three games. The All-Star break will then begin on Monday, July 15.
On Friday, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel didn't want to put a number on how many of the 10 upcoming home games the Phillies had to win.
"I've got a good feeling about our team right now," Manuel said after Friday's victory. "If we keep scoring some runs and our pitching holds up, who knows what we can do?"
Before Friday night, the Phillies had not played the Braves since opening weekend in April, when Philadelphia lost two-of-three contests in Atlanta. The Phillies and the Braves will meet 15 more times this season, counting Saturday night's game.
"If we put some pressure on them, they can fold," Phillies center fielder Ben Revere said of the Braves. "We intend to that this weekend."
The Phillies seemed relaxed before Friday night's game. They listened to rap music and joked before batting practice.
But there is a sense of urgency. Philadelphia needs a winning streak and everyone connected with the team knows it.
Amaro said the team has been an enigma because it has mostly meandered its way through the season. The Phillies longest winning streak is four games and their longest losing streak is five games.
"We know what we're capable of, especially with veterans in this clubhouse," Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown said. "But it's July. We have to get it going. This is a big series for us. We can make up a lot of ground in a short period of time and that's what it's all about."
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