PHILADELPHIA -- These days can seem long in South Philadelphia. The Phillies have already clinched a spot in the postseason for the fifth straight season. Their magic number for a fifth consecutive National League East title is just three following Thursday afternoon's 3-1 victory over the Marlins in the first game of a doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park.
Even home-field advantage could be locked up by the end of this final regular-season homestand next Thursday -- if not by the end of the weekend. That magic number is now down to four.
So with 15 games remaining, the Phillies will likely soon be doing a lot of waiting for the postseason, and those days can seem even longer than a doubleheader on a wet and windy afternoon.
"It's important for us [to win the division soon], because we can play guys and get them ready," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We can play guys that we want to get some at-bats. Down toward the end, about the last week of the season, we can start playing our regular lineup."
The Phillies used the first game on Thursday to buy some rest for their regulars. Second baseman Pete Orr, catcher Brian Schneider and shortstop Michael Martinez earned starts, and spot starter Kyle Kendrick pitched in a game for the first time since Aug. 24.
Kendrick's recent inactivity played into the decision to pull him after five innings and 78 pitches.
"Obviously, it's been a long time since I've thrown to a hitter or thrown in a game," Kendrick said. "So they didn't want to risk injuries. That's fine."
Kendrick's pitching certainly didn't warrant relief. He plunked John Buck in the second inning but didn't allow a hit until outfielder Logan Morrison led off the fifth with a home run to right field. Later, a harmless infield single with two outs brought up pitcher Anibal Sanchez, who struck out, leaving Kendrick one strikeout off his season high of seven, recorded on Aug. 2 at Colorado.
"I don't want to say, 'Yeah, I'm surprised,'" Kendrick said. "Not at all. I was still pretty sharp."
For the second game in a row, the Phillies scored all the runs they'd need in the first inning. Hunter Pence and Raul Ibanez laced RBI doubles off Sanchez. Pence now has 12 hits in his last eight games, hitting .375 with six extra-base hits in that span. Ibanez made the defensive play of the game, throwing out Omar Infante at the plate for the second out of the eighth inning.
"[Schneider] got out in front of the plate, and he blocked it pretty good," Manuel said. "The guy did not get a good look at the plate."
The play saved setup man Antonio Bastardo from incurring more damage to what has already been the roughest stretch of his breakout season.
Bastardo started the eighth and allowed a one-out double and walk before Manuel brought in Brad Lidge for the final two outs of the frame.
Lidge got a big assist from Ibanez, then he struck out Buck with the bases loaded to end the threat.
Chase Utley returned to the diamond for the first time in eight days, pinch-hitting in the seventh inning and singling to left-center. The second baseman missed the previous seven games because of a concussion sustained when he was hit in the head with a pitch last Wednesday, against the Braves. He was in the lineup for the nightcap, along with shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
Nate Mink is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.