Phillies in do or die mode as series begins with Braves

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 19: Rhys Hoskins #17 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a solo home run and celebrates with Roman Quinn #24 in front of Tomas Nido #3 of the New York Mets in the bottom of the first inning at Citizens Bank Park on September 19, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 19: Rhys Hoskins #17 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a solo home run and celebrates with Roman Quinn #24 in front of Tomas Nido #3 of the New York Mets in the bottom of the first inning at Citizens Bank Park on September 19, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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It’s now or never for the Phillies if they want to win the division as they begin a four-game series with the division-leading Braves.

The stretch of baseball we have been talking about for months now is upon us. The Phillies and Braves open a four-game series in Atlanta Thursday night with Philadelphia’s playoff hopes in the balance. If they want to win the division and make the playoffs, this is the time to do it.

Heading into Thursday’s game, Atlanta leads Philadelphia by 5.5 games in the NL East. Fangraphs projects Atlanta to finish the season 89-73, while they project Philadelphia to finish 84-78. According to their projection systems, the Braves have a 96.0% chance to win the division, while Philadelphia only has a 3.9% chance. But there is a chance.

Obviously, Philadelphia needs to win this series. The Braves’ magic number is six: they need a combination of six Philadelphia losses or Atlanta wins to clinch the division. If Atlanta wins this series, they win the division.

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Philadelphia has 11 remaining games: four against Atlanta, four against the Rockies, then three more against Atlanta. In an ideal world, they win every single one of these games, which should be enough to get them in the playoffs one way or another. That is hard to expect considering they are playing two teams fighting for their own playoff spots, with the Rockies trying to play themselves into the NL West lead or second wild card spot.

Every loss Philadelphia suffers from now until the end of the season cuts deep into their playoff chances. While they have to play another playoff contender in the Rockies, the Braves have a series against the Mets, who they have dominated all season long.

The Braves will likely win or even sweep the Mets in their series, meaning Philadelphia has to win two of three or sweep the Rockies to keep pace with Atlanta.

Thankfully, the Phils have shown signs of life. They won consecutive series for the first time since July 20-25 against the Padres and Dodgers. Granted, these wins were against the Marlins and Mets, but they struggled against both of these teams all season long. These series wins brought the Phils two games closer to the Braves, and every game matters with the end of the season this close.

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The Phils have put themselves in a position to win the division by winning most, if not all, of their remaining games. It is now do or die for the team if they are going to win the division. They are slowly turning things around, but now they need to do a complete 180 compared to the last two months.

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