Bryce Harper will make his long-awaited return to the Phillies lineup on Friday.
Entering Thursday, the Philadelphia Phillies remain in control of their own destiny — to finally clinch their first postseason berth since their franchise-best 102-win season in 2011.
With 38 games to play in 42 days — including a doubleheader on the road against the Major League Baseball-worst Washington Nationals on Saturday, October 1 — interim manager Rob Thomson’s squad respectively holds 2- and 3 1/2-game leads over the San Diego Padres and Milwaukee Brewers for the second and third National League Wild Card spots. This does not account for the Phillies holding the tiebreaker over both clubs, should they end the season with an identical record.
While the Padres added slugger Juan Soto at the trade deadline, the Phillies are about to add a fellow former Nationals outfielder of their own — which will be a huge confidence boost at this stage of the season.
Before Thursday’s series finale against the Cincinnati Reds, Thomson announced that reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper — who fractured his thumb back in June — will be activated heading into the three-game weekend series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Harper’s presence will significantly lengthen the Phillies lineup. Here is the dream order Thomson should consider for the final six weeks of the regular season.
1. Kyle Schwarber, left field
Despite his last home run coming on August 5, Kyle Schwarber continues to lead the National League in home runs with 34 — although St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is not far behind with 33, following his two-home run performance on Thursday against the Chicago Cubs.
Schwarber has just one home run overall through 71 plate appearances in August — after homering 12 times in June and 10 times in August. Still, Schwarber is slashing .262/.366/.410 in the month and has 40 extra-base hits batting first in the order overall this season.