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NL East season preview

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Did the Phillies clinch the division the day they signed Cliff Lee? That's the popular sentiment, then and now. And even if the tendinitis in Chase Utley's right knee is worse than originally feared, our projections identify four reasons why the Phils will hold off the Braves for their fifth straight NL East title. Those reasons: Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt.

Still, Philadelphia's roster is aging, so its window is closing fast. Atlanta's promising young core is led by Jason Heyward, arguably the best young talent in baseball (although Marlins 21-year old rightfielder Mike Stanton is a future home run champ).

The takeaway? Philly needs to win now, because the Braves are ready again to dominate a division they ruled for most of the past 20 years.