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Don't count out the Phillies

8/24/2006

BASEBALL TONIGHT EXTRA

By Mark Simon, ESPN Research

We break down the NL and AL wild-card races in full force heading into the final weeks of the season. The contenders are plentiful, with a couple of surprise teams in the mix, particularly the Phillies, who have been among the best teams in baseball this month. Go figure. Trading Bobby Abreu has proved to be exactly the spark the Phillies needed.

Injuries also could play a major role. The Phillies are a bit banged up, and boy, would the Red Sox like to have Jason Varitek back.

The season is a long one, and those who can remain standing tend to persevere. Remember: The teams that have to win down the stretch usually do just about every night.

These races could come down to one player or, as we've seen in the past, to one play. That's what makes them so exciting as we hit the stretch run.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

NATIONAL LEAGUE

ELIAS SAYS

Scott Olsen • Scott Olsen improved his record to 10-7 in the Marlins' 9-7 victory over the Nationals, joining rookie teammates Josh Johnson (11-6) and Ricky Nolasco (11-8), who previously reached double figures in wins. Florida is the first team in 54 years with three rookies with 10 or more victories. The last was the 1952 Brooklyn Dodgers: Joe Black (15-4), Billy Loes (13-8), and Ben Wade (11-9).

• Matt Garza, the 25th pick in the 2005 amateur draft, earned his first major-league win in the Twins' 4-1 victory over the Orioles. The only other pitchers from the 2005 draft to have won a game in the majors to date are Mike Pelfrey of the Mets (2-1) and Craig Hansen of the Red Sox (1-1).

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RUMOR CENTRAL

Thinking Blue

Eric Gagne Impressed with the Dodgers' roster, Eric Gagne will consider re-signing with the team, even if it means taking less money than he could fetch on the open market, the Los Angeles Times reports.

"I want to win and this team will be a winner," Gagne told the newspaper. Because of his injuries, the closer understands "any contract is going to be incentive-laden."

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