The Phillies have a heartbeat, ladies, and gentlemen. After losing five straight games and giving up a three-run bomb to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the Phillies were staring face to face with another September collapse.
Thanks to clutch hitting, nerve-wracking pitching, and 40,000-dollar dogs later, they came from behind to beat the Toronto Blue Jays. J.T Realmuto, Dalton Guthrie, and Kyle Schwarber would drive in runs in the bottom of the 8th before Matt Vierling would walk things off in the bottom of the 10th.
The Phillies maintained a 2.5-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers thanks to the win, and their magic number sits at 11 games to make the playoffs. The Phillies welcome the Atlanta Braves to town one final time for a four-game series to close the final homestand of the year.
The Phillies just got done playing the Braves this past weekend and were swept in their three games in Atlanta. The Braves have been one of the best teams in baseball this season and have positioned themselves to take the NL East back from the New York Mets. After last weekend there is reason to believe that the Braves expect a similar result this weekend. While they have their eyes set on the division, the Phillies need to strike back and let the Braves know they won’t just hand them the next four games.
At one point, the Phillies’ pitching staff was their biggest strength this season. The starting rotation was dominant, and the bullpen locked things down when required. After injuries to Zack Wheeler and Seranthony Dominguez, a reshuffle had to take place with the top guys down.
Over the last few weeks, the starting rotation has let the team down. Aaron Nola, Kyle Gibson, Ranger Suarez, and Noah Syndergaard have been inconsistent. The starter’s inability to go deep into games during this stretch has taxed the bullpen.
The bullpen has begun to crack when used more often and in more high-leverage spots. Any bullpen will begin to struggle the more it is asked to get outs each and every day, and the Phillies are no exception to the mean. Aside from some strong individual performances, the unit has struggled to throw strikes and get big outs.
Tuesday’s game against Toronto is the epitome of the struggles the team has suffered over the last few weeks. Until the team is able to right the ship, winning games against the Atlanta Braves will be even more challenging.
One Final Push
The good news for the Phillies is that they have positioned themselves in the playoff picture. The team still holds the final Wild Card spot in the National League, and their lead over the Brewers sits at 2.5 games. The Phillies need a combination of 11 wins or Brewers losses to finally end their playoff drought.
The Phillies just need to play .500 ball to get into the playoffs. Milwaukee is not a better club than the Phillies; they have to play above their level to make a run. They should lock things up next week if they don’t go on another long losing streak. Splitting with the Braves at home should be good enough to keep their lead for the final spot. Taking advantage of the Cubs and Nationals next week will be where the club must shine if they want to paint the town red once again.
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin