The Phillies are in a slump, but still control their own Wild Card destiny.
From 162 games to 29. From 76 divisional games to 20. From 26 players to 28. From a marathon to a sprint. It will all come down to the final month of the season for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Entering Sunday’s west coast trip finale against the San Francisco Giants, the Phillies hold a 73-60 record and sit 2 1/2 games over the Milwaukee Brewers for the third and final National League Wild Card spot. They trail the San Diego Padres by a half-game for the second Wild Card.
The schedule does play out in the Phillies’ favor. Stop me if you’ve heard that one before.
After Sunday’s matinee, the Phillies will have off on Labor Day before starting a six-game homestand — with three games each against the Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals. Following those six, another off day will be followed with a six-game road trip against the Marlins and Atlanta Braves.
The Phillies will then have off on Monday, September 19, before beginning their final homestand of the season — with a pair of interleague games against the Toronto Blue Jays, and a four-game set against the Braves. This six-game run will be the key. If the Phils can split against two teams that (more than likely) will be in the playoffs and take care of business opposite sub-.500 teams, it will be hard to see them on the outside looking in.
Lastly, the Phillies will have off on Monday, September 26, before finishing the season on a 10-game road trip against the Chicago Cubs, Nationals, and Houston Astros. The last time the Phillies played in Chicago, Brad Miller hit three home runs in one game.
Realistically, the Phillies are in good shape. If the Brewers and Padres stay playing up-and-down baseball, they’ll be in. If one of those teams gets hot, the Phillies have to do the same. The Phillies (.484) have the easiest remaining strength of schedule, compared to the Brewers (.488) and Padres (.545).
Eventually getting back Zack Wheeler will undoubtedly help the rotation that has seen Bailey Falter emerge into a serviceable spot starter. Fans should also consider the fact that Aaron Nola has returned to his 2018 form. Forget about his last start. The entire staff — except for Falter — couldn’t find a way to get outs. Scratch it. It’s baseball. That happens.
This team is different. The Phillies of the past would be hovering a few games over .500 right now, telling themselves they’re in good shape to strike. Despite a disappointing series so far against the Giants, this team is good and has winners. They have the offense at full strength and made additions to the bullpen — something everyone was begging them to do.
Making the playoffs will be the goal until the Phillies clinch. Once they hopefully do so, the goal should be to make a run. Getting in and then being outed in three games should not be considered a successful season for this group. They believe in themselves too much to go out in the first series. Everyone should believe in the Phils.