The Philadelphia Phillies clinched the top Wild Card spot in the National League on Tuesday night with a dramatic walk-off win against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Clinching the top seed earned the Phils the right to host their opponent for the three games in the Wild Card round. Although the Phillies are locked in their spot to host Red October at Citizens Bank Park, the teams under them in the standings are still fighting to get in the postseason.
There are essentially four teams fighting for the final two spots in the playoffs. Those teams are the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, Miami Marlins, and the Cincinnati Reds.
If one of those teams claims the 5th seed in the National League, they will have to come to Philadelphia and take on the Phils for the right to move on to the NLDS.
Who should the Phillies want to play? Who would give them the most trouble?
Check out the possible opponents ranked from least likely to most likely to give the Fightin”s some trouble in the Wild Card round.
4. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds have been a great story all year.
They came out of nowhere and were powered by their young guns, who have come up and made major strides.
Elly De La Cruz was called up and set the league on fire in the first few weeks in the majors. He has since cooled down but still is an electric player who could give the Phils problems, especially on the base paths.
The Reds have an average offense, but their pitching and defense make them very vulnerable. They rank 25th in team ERA (4.79), have given up the third most home runs in the MLB (220), and have walked the 4th most batters overall.
Going against a surging Phillies lineup would spell troubles for Reds pitching and they would have to hope their offense could keep up.
With Wheeler and Nola lined up for the first two games of the Wild Card series, it would put the Reds at a huge disadvantage, making them the team that would pose the least threat to the Phils.
3. Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs are another franchise who have had an incredible storyline in 2023.
After going all in at the trade deadline and not being sellers as everyone originally anticipated, they have made a run at the playoffs.
The Cubs have been led by a resurgence Cody Bellinger and the play of Dansby Swanson and Nico Hoerner. They have also had a good year pitching from Justin Steele who is a Cy Young candidate and tough lefty to bat against. Starting pitcher Marcus Stroman was also having a solid year until injuries derailed his season.
The Cubs are top 10 in a lot of offensive categories and the middle of their defense is stout.
However, as much as an offensive threat as they pose, the Phillies have shown they can slow down their offense. The Phillies won the season series 5-1 and showed they could get to Chicago’s pitching.
Justin Steele is a dominant lefty that the Phillies would have to face in this Wild Card series. In the one game he pitched against the Phillies, he didn’t allow a run. The Phils still won that match-up by getting to Chicago’s bullpen.
With a lot of injuries to their ‘pen, Bryce Harper and the crew could feast once a starter goes out for the Cubs.
2. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks have had a wild ride this year.
They started out hot out the gates and were the best team in the NL West.
They then went into a huge slump to fall completely out of the Wild Card race and fought to get back into the post-season mix.
The D-backs are a good team with solid pitching and timely hitting. Their roster includes the probable Rookie Of The Year in Corbin Carroll and two really good starting pitchers.
Zac Gallen will likely be a Cy Young candidate and starter Merrill Kelly has been strong during the second half of this season.
This team is talented enough to give the Phillies fits but with them battling to get into the post-season, they will not be able to set up their pitching the way they would like.
As it stands, Zac Gallen would have to start Game 2 to stick with normal rest. Merrill Kelly would then be bumped to a potential Game 3.
This would line up well for the Phillies if they can take care of business in Game 1.
Gallen has been tough to beat all year but has given up some runs later as of late. In his last six starts, he has a 5.30 ERA. If that trend continues, the Phils would be in good shape to fend off Arizona in the Wild Card round.
1. Miami Marlins
Finally, we have the Phillies’ old nemesis, the Miami Marlins.
They are a pesky team and their games with the Phillies this year have all been nail-biters.
The Marlins won the season series seven games to six and most recently took two out of three in Philadelphia. They have elite hitters such as Luis Arraez and some power in the lineup with Jorge Soler, Josh Bell, and Jake Burger.
The Marlins are dealing with pitching injuries with Sandy Alcantara, who is shut down for the remainder of the season with a sprained UCL. There are some issues with their bullpen as well that leave them vulnerable in the later innings of a game.
The Phils are far more talented than the Marlins but because of the familiarity between the two teams, they would have to focus and really play clean games to dispose of the Fish.
Miami may be the toughest challenge for the Phillies if they faced off in the Wild Card series.
Overall, the Phillies are more talented and quite frankly better than all the opponents listed above.
They would be favored in any series against these opponents, but they know better than anybody that once you get in the postseason, anything can happen.
The Phillies proved that last year when they went to St. Louis and upset the Cardinals in two games to win the Wild Card series.
If they can take care of business, they will advance into the National League Divisional series.
If Fightin’s look at themselves as World Series contenders, they can’t let any of these teams get in the way of their goal in the Wild Card round.