When the Philadelphia Phillies ended the month of August with an MLB-record 57 home runs in the month (and a record of 17-10), it seemed as if they would ride that heat wave right into September in an effort to lock down the top Wild Card spot in the National League.
Instead, they have skidded their way to a 3-3 record through the first week of September having dropped a series to the Brewers and then winning their final West Coast series against the Padres. Now, the Phillies enter the penultimate homestand of the 2023 season against the Miami Marlins looking to reestablish momentum.
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Wild Card Implications for the Phillies and Marlins
While the Phillies were resting on Thursday evening, the NL Wild Card picture continued to develop. Going into the night, the Phillies sat in the first Wild Card spot with the Cubs 1.5 games back in second. The Marlins, meanwhile, owned the third Wild Card sitting 5.0 games behind the Phillies with both the Diamondbacks and the Reds 0.5 games behind them.
The first domino to fall on the night came as the Dodgers dominated the Marlins 10-0. With the loss, the Marlins fell into line with the Diamondbacks and the Reds in the standings for Wild Card 3. That lead, however, wouldn’t last long as the Diamondbacks defeated the Cubs 6-2 to take a 0.5 game lead on the Fish. The loss by the Cubs also gives the Phillies a 2.0 game lead over the Cubs while they maintain a 5.0 game lead over the Diamondbacks.
With both teams in the hunt for the Wild Card, these final three games of their season series matter for both the Phillies and Marlins. The teams are dead even in the season series as well at 5-5, meaning the winner of this series wins the season series as a whole. For the Phillies, a series victory would mean a continued advantage in the Wild Card rankings as they seek home-field advantage in the Wild Card round. A series victory for the Marlins, however, would simply mean staying afloat in what will be a hard battle for the final wild card spot.
Phillies vs Marlins Pitching Matchups
Following Zack Wheeler’s strong performance in their series finale against the Padres on Wednesday, the Phillies look to continue with their six-man rotation into the weekend with Cristopher Sanchez, Aaron Nola, and Ranger Suarez ready to pitch on extra days of rest. Sanchez will make his first start of the month for the Phillies after allowing three runs in 4.2 innings against the Angels.
Aaron Nola returns to action and will look to get back on track after his blow-up seven-run outing against the Brewers. The question is still in the air as to which Aaron Nola the Phillies will see the rest of the season. Suarez only threw four innings in his return to the team on Sunday against the Brewers, allowing two runs and five hits while striking out five.
The Marlins, meanwhile, are putting up Eury Perez and Johnny Cueto on Friday and Saturday, respectively, against the Phillies. Perez, 20, is in his rookie season for the Marlins and is pitching for a very respectable 2.86 ERA over 16 starts. The young gun held the title of top prospect in the Marlins organization heading into 2023 and will without a doubt be a member of their staff for years to come. Taking the mound for the Fish on Saturday is Cueto, a seasoned big leaguer, who owns a 5.54 ERA on the year.
Sunday’s starter for the Marlins is TBA. Likely this would have been ace Sandy Alcantara who was just placed on the IL with a flexor strain in his right forearm. The Marlins had just switched to a six-man rotation with the return of Cueto from the IL last weekend, so that start will likely go to Jesus Luzardo, the next man in the rotation. Luzardo has a 3.59 ERA on the year with 181 strikeouts over 155.1 innings.
A Special Moment on Saturday
While the Phillies and Marlins battle it out with playoff implications abound, they will also take a moment to honor those involved in another kind of battle. Saturday night’s 6:05 P.M. contest is the Nemours Childhood Cancer Awareness Night at Citizens Bank Park. Among those planning to be in attendance will be Christie and Chris Phelan, parents of Corey Phelan a pitcher within the Phillies organization who last his battle to cancer at the age of 20 last October. The Phelan family has since started Corey’s Promise, a foundation in his honor.
Bryson Stott is slated to give a message in special video presentation before the game. Stott lost his high school best friend, Cooper Ricciardi in 2016. Additionally, a Go Gold Ribbon will be held up in center field by family members whose children lost their battle to cancer. There will also be a ceremonial Go Gold Home Run and several ceremonial first pitches by local children currently in the battle against cancer.
Phillies fans, I’m taking off my writers cap for a second. We’ve all lost someone or know someone who has lost a family member to cancer. If you are at that game on Saturday night, please find a way to support the efforts to raise money that night for the various foundations present at the game. Corey’s Promise will be selling T-shirts at the First Base Plaza while that night’s 50/50 raffle will benefit the Nemours Foundation. If you are at that game, you are likely in the financial position to give even $5 toward the cause of beating childhood cancer, so please consider doing so.
Phillies Keys to Victory
Trea Turner will return to action for the Phillies this weekend after taking a few days off to welcome his son, Tatum Trea Turner, to the world. Turner has been red-hot over the past month for the Phillies and has hit 12 home runs in the past 28 games. Dating back to the All-Star Break, Turner owns a .902 OPS. Turner returning to the offense should serve as a shot of adrenaline to the team as they look to knock down the Marlins.
Aaron Nola. Beyond just this series, Aaron Nola could be the biggest determining factor as to how far the Phillies will go the rest of the way. And, for the first time in his career, Nola will be having nearly every executive in the game keeping tabs on his performances as well. If Nola gets on a hot streak, the Phillies will likely find themselves back in the World Series while Nola himself will receive a big paycheck this offseason. If Nola does not pitch well, however, the Phillies could dissipate early on in the postseason with Nola having to rely on pedigree for a large paycheck rather than recent results.
Cleanly-shaven Bryce Harper has had a few heads turn his way recently regarding his staying at first base for the long term. Whether Harper does stay at first base, or if he returns to right field, is a question for another day. Harper, meanwhile, is working himself up to his Red October form from 2022 in which he nearly single-handed-willed the Phillies into the postseason. If Harper continues to trend upward, there will be no chance in the world for the Marlins to win this series.
AP Photo/Matt Slocum)