The Atlanta Braves clinched their 6th straight NL East title in Philadelphia on Wednesday night. Phillies fans watched in dismay as a division rival celebrated on their home turf – a devastating result from a pivotal 4-game series against a divisional opponent as the Phils hunt for the Wild Card.
All the Phillies had to do was win 2 games to avoid the embarrassment of your division rival celebrating on your home field. They couldn’t do it. Late home runs from Harper and Turner forced two games to extra innings but their heroics (once again) were wasted.
Had the Phightins converted on 2 extra-inning gifts, they’d have 81 wins on the season, guaranteeing their 3rd straight season with a .500 or better record. Instead, the Phillies video board read “Congratulations Atlanta Braves” as their team took pictures by the pitcher’s mound.
So what now?
The Phightins are still holding onto the top Wild Card spot but the Chicago Cubs are just 1.5 games behind. The Phils have just 5 series left in the season: 3 games in St. Louis, 3 games in Atlanta, 4 matchups against the Mets at home, 3 games against the Pirates at home, and 3 games in NYC against the Mets to close the season.
They must secure the top Wild Card seed to avoid playing a 3-game set on the road. To accomplish this, the Phillies need to start playing angry. Use the frustration of a rival clinching on your home turf to launch into a lengthy postseason run.
The Phillies need to play with fury
The following 3 games in St. Louis should be a bloodbath for the Cardinals. The last time the 2 teams met, the Phillies outscored the Red Birds 22-3 in a series sweep. Aaron Nola will open the series. Usually, that would be a bad thing as Nola has struggled in 2023 but Nola has been fantastic against the Cardinals in his career. He has a 2.41 ERA in 10 career starts against them.
That potential win should help snowball the Phightins into the postseason with momentum.
A win in the Wild Card series would propel the Phillies into another postseason meeting with the Atlanta Braves, assuming they’re not the 3rd Wild Card. That’s why they need to internalize Wednesday night’s failure and mold it into something positive.
The Phillies have never lost a postseason series to the Braves. They beat them in the 1993 NLCS to go to the World Series and beat them last year in the NLDS. Both times, the Phillies were underdogs. This year, they’ll be underdogs again.
Perhaps, the Phillies could win the series in Atlanta to make their 2nd straight trip to the NLCS. The Braves can keep touting their division title while the Phillies can keep on playing in October.
One thing remains, however, the Phillies need to rekindle their fire heading into the final weeks of the season.
(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)