Phillies: There’s still reason to believe in club’s postseason chances

Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper (Kyle Ross/USA TODAY Sports)
Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper (Kyle Ross/USA TODAY Sports) /

The Phillies still have one last run left in them to make the postseason.

As Tug McGraw once said, “Ya Gotta Believe.” The Philadelphia Phillies are not only playing for their first postseason berth in a decade, but also their first winning record — having finished .500 or worse in every season since their disappointing 2011 NLDS finish against the Cardinals.

There is still reason to believe, especially when the team has a Cy Young-caliber pitcher in Zack Wheeler and an MVP-caliber corner outfielder in Bryce Harper.

Entering Sunday’s series finale against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Wheeler leads Major League Baseball in complete games (3), shutouts (2), innings pitched (176 2/3), strikeouts (204), and total batters faced (701). His 5.7 WAR ranks second among National League pitchers, not to mention his impressive, ninth-NL-best 2.90 ERA.

At the plate, Harper leads MLB in OPS (1.001), and OPS+ (173). His 4.2 WAR ranks 10th among National League position players, while his 4.8 offensive WAR, specifically, ranks second-best. The six-time All-Star’s .299/.417/.584 slash line is also among the best, with essentially a month to go in regular season action.

The Phillies may have struggled recently as a team, but thanks to Wheeler, Harper, and other rising players — as well as their easy schedule — there is still a chance for them to play meaningful baseball beyond the October 3 season finale.

NL East Standings (through August 28)

  1. Atlanta Braves (69-59, .539)
  2. Philadelphia Phillies (65-64, .504, 4.5 games back)
  3. New York Mets (62-67, .481, 7.5 games back)
  4. Washington Nationals (55-73, .430, 14 games back)
  5. Miami Marlins (54-76, .415, 16 games back)

According to Baseball-Reference, entering Sunday, the Phillies are projected to at best finish 87-75, while the Braves are projected to at worst finish 83-78. If an actual scenario somewhere between those two occurs, the Phillies will clinch their first division title since 2011.

NL Wild Card Standings (through August 28)

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (82-48, .631, 11.5 games ahead)
  2. Cincinnati Reds (71-60, .542, 2 games ahead)
  3. San Diego Padres (69-62, .527, 2 games back)
  4. St. Louis Cardinals (66-62, .516, 3.5 games back)
  5. Philadelphia Phillies (65-64, .504, 5 games back)

It will be tough for the Phillies to gain ground and secure their first-ever Wild Card berth in franchise history. Their best chance at the postseason will be to catch and pass the Atlanta Braves.

Currently, the Phillies trail three teams for the second Wild Card spot — the Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres, and St. Louis Cardinals. The Los Angeles Dodgers, meanwhile, are running away and have all but clinched the top spot.

Remaining Phillies Schedule (Record through August 28)

Entering Sunday, 33 games remain on the Phillies schedule, including 15 at home and 18 on the road. Nearly half (15) of the remaining contests will be against National League East opponents, while almost all (27) will be against an opponent with a winning percentage worse than .500.

  • August 29, vs. D-backs (44-87)
  • August 30, at Nationals (55-73)
  • August 31, at Nationals (55-73)
  • September 1, at Nationals (55-73)
  • September 3, at Marlins (54-76)
  • September 4, at Marlins (54-76)
  • September 5, at Marlins (54-76)
  • September 6, at Brewers (78-52)
  • September 7, at Brewers (78-52)
  • September 8, at Brewers (78-52)
  • September 9, vs. Rockies (59-70)
  • September 10, vs. Rockies (59-70)
  • September 11, vs. Rockies (59-70)
  • September 12, vs. Rockies (59-70)
  • September 14, vs. Cubs (57-74)
  • September 15, vs. Cubs (57-74)
  • September 16, vs. Cubs (57-74)
  • September 17, at Mets (62-67)
  • September 18, at Mets (62-67)
  • September 19, at Mets (62-67)
  • September 20, vs. Orioles (40-88)
  • September 21, vs. Orioles (40-88)
  • September 22, vs. Orioles (40-88)
  • September 23, vs. Pirates (47-83)
  • September 24, vs. Pirates (47-83)
  • September 25, vs. Pirates (47-83)
  • September 26, vs. Pirates (47-83)
  • September 28, at Braves (69-59)
  • September 29, at Braves (69-59)
  • September 30, at Braves (69-59)
  • October 1, at Marlins (54-76)
  • October 2, at Marlins (54-76)
  • October 3, at Marlins (54-76)

Manager Joe Girardi’s squad’s late-September road series against the Braves will be crucial, as long as they can remain in striking distance in the division standings, come the three-game road set at Truist Park.

The Braves have 34 games left to play overall. Along with three against the Phillies, another of the games is a currently suspended seven-inning contest from July 21, in which they trail the San Diego Padres, 5-4, in the bottom of the fifth inning. After the completion of that game on September 24, the Braves will play another hours later, before two more games in what should be a must-watch series.

Not to mention, the Braves still have four games left to play against the best team in MLB — Gabe Kapler’s San Francisco Giants — as well as three against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The two National League West teams have 166 combined wins this season, entering Sunday.

Don’t count out the Phillies just yet.

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