Phillies making their playoff run too close for comfort

by Marc Narducci | Sep 19, 2022
Phillies making their playoff run too close for comfort
For a while, it appeared as if the Phillies would coast into the playoffs, but why did we believe that this team would make anything easy?

It’s no longer assured that the Phillies will reach the postseason for the first time since 2011. Entering this week, they still held the edge, but hold on to your seatbelts for the final 16 games.

After Monday’s off-day, the Phillies play their six final games this week at home, two against Toronto and four against the pain in you know what Atlanta Braves.

It’s the Braves that just enjoyed a three-game sweep over the Phillies in Atlanta. The Braves are now in their battle with the New York Mets in the National League East.

The Phillies entered the week a half-game behind the San Diego Padres for the second wild card spot and two games up on the Milwaukee Brewers for the third and final wild card position.

An important factor is that the Phillies won the season series against both San Diego and Milwaukee so if they end up in a tie with either, the Phillies would earn the wild card spot. That’s because head-to-head results are the first tiebreaker. There will be no one-game playoff as in the past to resolve the situation.

So here are the final schedules for all three teams battling for the final two wild card spots (The loser of the NL East between the Mets and Braves will earn the first wild card).

Phillies remaining 16 games: vs Toronto (2), vs. the Braves (4) Chicago Cubs (3) Washington (4) at Houston (3).

San Diego’s remaining 15 games: vs. St. Louis (3), at Colorado (3), vs. LA Dodgers (3), vs. Chicago White Sox (3), vs. San Francisco (3).

Milwaukee Brewers remaining 16 games: vs. NY Mets (3), at Cincinnati (4), vs. St. Louis (2), vs. Miami (4), vs. Arizona (3).

Notice that the Padres and Brewers play their final nine games at home while the Phillies are on the road for the final 10.

Home and road don’t make that great a difference in baseball, it is the strength of the opponents that matters most, especially toward the end of the season.

According to Tankathon, to begin the week, the Padres had the sixth most difficult remaining schedule, with the Padres opponents having a .542 winning percentage.

The Phillies had the 12th most difficult schedule. Their remaining opponents had a .506 winning percentage.

The Brewers had the 21st most difficult schedule (.480 for remaining opponents).

Not all end-of-the-season schedules have the same meaning.

For instance, the Phillies end with three games against the American League’s top team, the Houston Astros. The Astros will likely have clinched the best record in the American League by then, so those games may not have much importance.

Houston is all but assured of earning a first-round bye and that could impact manager Dusty Baker’s decision on resting players. The two teams in each league that earn first-round byes will have eight full days off so a team like Houston may want to play its regulars in the final series against the Phillies to keep them somewhat sharp.

Phillies ace Zack Wheeler is returning from injury (elbow soreness) on Wednesday, but he won’t be ready to pitch too deep into games. Wheeler last pitched on Aug. 19. The Phillies announced that Wheeler will start and Noah Syndergaard will back him up in games for at least the next two starts.

At least the Phillies will get Wheeler on the mound and they hope he has enough time to get sharp for the postseason. Then again, they hope to be in the postseason, something that seemed more of certainty until they lost their final four games of the recently completed six-game road trip.

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Author: Marc Narducci

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