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Phillies: The Hunt for Red October

The Phillies have 9 games remaining in the 2020 season. They are currently a game above .500 at 26-25. With a San Francisco Giants loss last night, they currently hold the 7th seed in the 8-team expanded playoffs.

If the season ended today, the Phillies would be the 7th seed in the playoffs and face the 2nd seeded Chicago Cubs.

National League Playoff Seeding:
No. 8 Reds vs. No. 1 Dodgers
No. 7 Phillies vs. No. 2 Cubs
No. 6 Cardinals vs. No. 3 Braves
No. 5 Marlins vs. No. 4 Padres

More importantly, the Phillies find themselves in 3rd place in the NL East. They are four games behind the first-place Braves and a half-game behind the Marlins for the division’s second guaranteed playoff spot.

The Braves and Phillies split their season series, but Atlanta has the tiebreaker edge by virtue of a better intra-division record (20-14 to Philadelphia’s 20-16). The Marlins hold the tiebreaker over the Phillies after winning the season series, 7-3.

The Phillies are coming off of their 1st double header sweep since 2012. They have 2 more games against the Blue Jays and will then play 4 against the Washington Nationals, who are 19-30 and 0-6 against the Phillies this year. They will close out the season with a 3 game series against the Tampa Bay Rays who have already clinched a playoff birth and hold the best record in Major League Baseball at 34-18.

For Miami, their final 10 games will provide a much more difficult path. They have 3 more games against the Nationals before hitting the road to play 4 against the Braves. They will close out their season in New York with a 3 game series against the Yankees.

It hasn’t been easy for the Phillies in September. Injuries have plagued this team over the past few weeks.

The elephant in the room for the Phillies is their bullpen. They currently hold an MLB worst 7.29 ERA through the first 51 games of the 2020 season. It will be difficult to enter the playoffs with the group they have, but it’s not like they have a choice. The midseason moves they made to bring in Workman, Hembree, and Phelps simply did not work.

The only silver lining is that the 1st round of the playoffs will be 3-game series. With Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler pitching exactly as advertised, the Phillies will have a shot against any team in the National League. It’s not just me saying that, Bryce Harper echoed the same message last night.

“We take care of our own destiny. We just have to win games. Just give us a chance. I think in a three-game set, that first round, I think we go up pretty well. … I’ll take [Zack] Wheeler and [Aaron] Nola up against anybody. We’ve just got to get there and get going.”

Speaking of Harper, after nearly a three week slump, he is batting .343 (12-for-35) with five doubles, four home runs, seven RBIs and a 1.281 OPS in his last 10 games.

He’s not the only Phillies player who has been performing well in September. Rookie Alec Bohm has proved to be beyond the real deal and finds himself as the front-runner for NL Rookie of the Year and one of the best hitters in baseball for the month of September.

Bohm, 2016 1st overall pick Mickey Moniak, and yesterday’s game two hero Rafael Marchan round out a trio of young Phillies prospects that have been thrusted into the starting lineup due to injuries.

Although it’s a very small sample size, Moniak and Marchan have made an impact immediately. The duo became the youngest pair of Phillies to have a hit in the same game since Scott Rolen and Rich Hunter on August 28, 1996. It will be important for all three to continue to provide a boost for the Phillies over the next 9 games.

Vincent Velasquez takes the mound today for the Phillies against the Blue Jays. This will be his first of two starts over the next week. Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler will also make two starts before the season ends. Zach Eflin will make one more start after arguably pitching his best game of the year yesterday against the Blue Jays where he threw a complete game shutout and only allowed four hits and two walks while striking out nine.

If you’re keeping count, the Phillies starting rotation is set to pitch 7 of the 9 games remaining on the schedule. That leaves the possibility of two “bullpen games” where the Phillies send out whatever arms they have available. That of course, is not ideal when your bullpen has an ERA north of 6.50 but again, there’s no other choice.

It will also be interesting to see how Girardi manages Wheeler and Nola, who are slated to pitch the final two games of the season against the Rays on September 26th and September 27th.

National League Playoff Schedule:
–NL wild-card round will begin 9/30 and run thru 10/2 at higher seeds.
–NLDS will begin 10/6 in Arlington/Houston.
–NLCS will begin 10/12 (all games in Arlington).
–World Series will begin 10/20 (all games in Arlington). Game 7 is 10/28.

In a situation where the Phillies do not clinch the automatic 2nd place bid in the National League. They will be a wild card team. Which means that they will play their first game September 30th, giving Wheeler 3-days rest and Nola 2-days rest assuming they pitch the final two games as scheduled.

I would find it extremely unlikely that the Phillies would go into any playoffs without Nola and Wheeler being game one and two starters.

My prediction: The Phillies will catch the Miami Marlins over the next 9 games and clinch the 2nd seed in the National League and enter Red October facing the San Diego Padres in round one of the playoffs.

The Hunt for Red October has officially begun. The Liberty Line has some great things planned for our Phillies coverage. Stay up to date on all things Phillies and Philadelphia sports in general, right here on The Liberty Line.

Mandatory Credit: CBS Philly

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