There are 33 games left in both the Phillies and MLB’s 2023 regular seasons and now, it’s time to be laser-focused on the postseason. The Philadelphia Phillies have the first National League Wild Card with the Arizona Diamondbacks three games back with the second one. Keeping that Wild Card spot would secure the ever-important home-field advantage.
The last month of the baseball season is when teams’ best and worst shine. Not everyone thrives under pressure. Players and teams can either tighten up and flounder or rise to the occasion. The Phillies are in control of their destiny but there are a few key things they need to keep in mind.
Bryce Harper is heating up
We’ve heard of June Schwarber. Maybe, we can call August Harper and make it a thing. There is no better time to hear the phrase Bryce Harper is heating up. Let’s just give example A against the San Francisco Giants.
After Tommy John surgery, doctors told him he shouldn’t expect to be back in the lineup before the All-Star Break. Fans and staff alike saw him make that return much quicker than expected on May 2nd. Fast forward to now, he’s been on a hot streak. Harper hit his fifth home run in the last seven games — including his third straight — Wednesday afternoon.
And his month is just getting hotter. In August, Harper is batting .361 with 30 hits, seven home runs, and 18 RBIs in 22 games. He is slugging .735 with an OPS of 1.178. On Saturday night’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals, reached base all four times with a double, two RBI singles, and a walk.
He’s also playing through some pain as well. Harper’s been the designated hitter for 12 games in August to rest his back. But through the pain, he’s got the power back in his swing that the squad will need to keep and secure that first spot.
Maybe it’s August Turner time too
On August 22nd, Trea Turner picked up his first walk-off hit as a Phillie and the eighth walk-off hit for the team this season as the Phillies came from behind, again, to beat the San Francisco Giants 4-3.
With 33 games left, it’s a good time for Turner to hit his stride. He’s slashing .301/.343/.548 for an OPS of 0.891 with five homers and 16 RBI since the start of August. In that stretch of 22 games, Turner has at least one hit in 18 of them. Yes, maybe the fan ovations have boosted his confidence but he’s forcing pitchers to throw him strikes and is using his natural ability to drive the ball and be more productive.
Rob Thomson moved Turner down in the lineup to try and relieve some pressure but has since moved him back to the two-hole. Keeping Harper hot and turning up Turner in the remaining weeks of the season and playoffs, this offense can be extremely dangerous.
Once again, consistency and trust are key for the Phillies
This feels familiar for Phillies fans. In 2022, they got hot right at the right time and it helped them to Red October. The Phillies need to stay consistent if they want the opportunity to create some October magic once again. They’ve lost 6 out of their last 13 games, including two series with a bad Nationals team, one with the Minnesota Twins, one with the Toronto Blue Jays, and took two out of three from the Giants. Their offense and pitching on occasion can be inconsistent which will be their one detriment.
Trust is also key here in the final games and when it comes to the Phillies’ arms, thankfully it’s a strength. The Phillies have four pitchers they trust against lefty-heavy lineup pockets — Gregory Soto, Ranger Suárez, Matt Strahm, and Michael Lorenzen. Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler also are typically reliable but Nola might be one to worry about.
Losing their August 18th game to the Washington Nationals (which should’ve been a win) showed that’s where they can falter. Losing a game they should win cannot happen for the rest of the calendar. That first Wild Card spot is going to be key. Making it deep in the postseason is key.
Winning the World Series? Get the right formula and it’s possible.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Slocum