‘Never-Say-Die’ Phillies are now living on a prayer as wildcard race begins

After an eventful offseason and strong start to the season, things have not gone according to plan for the Phillies. Andrew McCutchen, Seranthony Dominguez, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, and David Robertson have all been lost to injury. Odubel Herrera was removed from the roster following a domestic violence charge. Just about every single pitcher in the starting rotation has regressed to varying degrees- most of them not being anything to write home about prior to the regression. And after producing one of the most anemic offenses in the league for a spell, ex-hitting coach John Mallee was canned and replaced with Charlie Manuel.

So, yeah, things have gone off the rails a bit within the Phillies organization. Despite their flaws and shortcomings, however, the fightin’ Phils find themselves just 2 games back (!) of a Wild Card berth with 19 games remaining on their schedule.

No matter how bleak things look at times, this team simply won’t quit- a mindset they’ll need to hold firm to if they want to continue playing in October.

The remaining is schedule is absolutely BRUTAL for the Phils. Once they wrap up their current four-game road series against Atlanta, it’s off to Cleveland for a three-game series against the Tribe. After that, they are road dawgs once again as they travel to our nation’s capital to square off in a three-game set versus the rival Nationals. Lastly, they conclude their regular season with a three-game series against the Marlins, who they are 7-9 against this season. ​Yikes.​

To say the Phillies are up against it would be putting it mildly. The team simply has to play its best baseball as the room for error precipitates by the day.

Fortunately for the Phils, superstar slugger Bryce Harper recently returned to the lineup after missing a few games after being struck by a pitch in the hand.

Between Harper, J.T Realmuto, and Rhys Hoskins the team should be able to generate enough offense to remain, and, hopefully, win the hunt for a Wild Card slot. The team’s biggest concern is whether or not the pitching staff can be productive enough to keep them in the race, which, to this point at least, they have shown no inclination of being capable of.

The pitching staff has been dreadful since the All-Star break, sporting a 4.57 ERA, including a 4.74 ERA over the last week. They weren’t a strong unit heading to the season and seem to be falling apart completely as the season wanes to a close.

Now, they’ll be called upon to face some of the league’s most prominent offenses and keep the Phillies season alive.

Outside of South Philly, things aren’t going so great for the other teams trying to keep pace in the Wild Card race- the NL Central based Cubs and Brewers. Star infielder Javy Baez is unlikely to return in September for the Cubs due to a fractured right thumb. Losing “El Mago” is hard enough as is for Chicago, but the loss is amplified by the fact that his backup Addison Russell is also unavailable due to injury.

Things are even bleaker in Milwaukee, though, as the reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich will miss the remainder of the season after fracturing his kneecap in last night’s bout against the Marlins.

I don’t want to downplay the injuries to Baez and Yelich, as I am hoping for a speedy recovery for both superstars, but in light of the news, the Phillies’ fading glimmer of hope just got a lot brighter. It won’t be easy, but nothing ever is in professional sports. Down but not out, the Phillies are living on a prayer with the playoffs looming. Time will tell how far it takes them.

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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