The Phillies head home following an embarrassing series in Atlanta. The Braves swept the Phillies, and the club has dropped four straight games. The Phillies are still in the driver’s seat regarding the playoffs, but they cannot afford to lose a 5th straight game in September. Welcoming a hot Toronto Blue Jays team to South Philly is not what the Phillies want to see.
If there was ever a time to exact revenge for the 1993 World Series, the time is now.
Taking Care of Business
The Phillies control their own destiny as they head down the stretch. The club sits 2.5 games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers for the final Wild Card spot in the National League. Thanks to the New York Mets, the Brewers lost on Monday night to give the Phillies the extra half-game lead.
Thanks to Destiny Lugardo of Phillies Nation, the above chart shows what the Phillies need to do in order to keep themselves in the playoffs. The club has given themselves the advantage due to taking the season series against Milwaukee. The Brewers have to win 3 more games than the Phillies between today and the end of the season to leap them in the Wild Card. The San Diego Padres throw a small wrinkle in these plans, but if the Phillies just win some upcoming series, none of it will matter.
Playing for October
The Phillies aren’t the only team in this series playing for the playoffs. The Toronto Blue Jays are in the midst of another playoff quest. Toronto loaded up this past off-season and was considered favorites by many to win the World Series before the season began. After a hot start by the Yankees, the Blue Jays’ publicity fell, but the club has remained very competitive.
The Blue Jays have all but locked up the top Wild Card spot in the American League. They do sit 5.5 games behind the New York Yankees for first place in the AL East, so there is reason to play for the rest of the season.
Toronto’s powerful offense featuring Vladimir Guerrero Jr, George Springer, Bo Bichette, and many others is a lineup that can rival any other in the league. The Phillies’ pitching staff will have to carefully locate their pitches over the next two games. If they fail to do so, the Blue Jays will make them pay.
Game 1: Kyle Gibson (10-6, 4.45 ERA) vs Ross Stripling (8-4, 2.94 ERA)
This is the game the Phillies have to win. While Ross Stripling is a great pitcher in his own right, he is not as dominant as the guy who will pitch game two of the series for Toronto. Stripling has been really solid for the Blue Jays this season and will certainly be huge for them in the playoffs. Toronto’s starter doesn’t allow many home runs, letting up just 11 on the season. Waiting for one swing to change the game is not the approach the Phillies should take in this game.
Kyle Gibson looked fantastic against the Miami Marlins in this last start. The difficulty of the Marlins’ lineup versus Toronto’s lineup is far less of a challenge. Gibson will need to be even better than he was on Wednesday if he is going to bring the Phillies a win. Kyle has shown that he has what it takes this season and has stepped up in big moments for the team. He has also shown why he is a 4th/5th starter and has also let down the team in some big games. The Phillies need the best out of Gibson if they want to beat the Blue Jays on Tuesday.
Game 2: Zack Wheeler (11-7, 3.07 ERA) vs Kevin Gausman (12-10, 3.45 ERA)
The Phillies ace will return to the mound Wednesday night as Zack Wheeler returns from injury. Wheeler has missed three weeks due to right forearm soreness, and the Phillies wanted to put Zack’s health as their first priority. Wheeler will be used as an opener in this game and Noah Syndergaard will come into the game after Zack is done. He is expected to have a pitch count, or inning limit, in his first start back. The biggest thing for the Phillies is that Wheeler feels good before, during, and after the game. If he suffers any setbacks, the chances of playing October baseball become much harder.
The Phillies offense will get the treat of facing off against Kevin Gausman in game 2. Gausman was one of the best pitchers in baseball last season and is having another strong season in Toronto in 2022. Kevin’s ERA rose this season, but pitching in the American League East will do that to any pitcher. He will not be a pushover and will go after the Phillies hitters in Wednesday’s matchup.
AP Photo/Matt Slocum