As the MLB regular season is winding down with seven days left, five teams have already locked in a playoff spot. Some of these playoff races are tight. Division leaders are still unknown. Who will take a wild card spot?
More specifically, in the National League East Division, the Philadelphia Phillies are fighting for a playoff spot as they are two and a half games behind the 83-72 Atlanta Braves. Will the Phillies (somehow) go on a huge winning run during these next seven days and secure the division?
Yes. Not only can the Phillies win the division, but they certainly will win the NL East Division Title.
Yes, it’s true that the Phillies do lead the league in blown saves and their bullpen has allowed the fourth most home runs in the league. It is also true that they have stuck to a four man starting pitching rotation which hasn’t had a lot of success.
The Phils lost two key players during the season including Rhys Hoskins and Zach Elfin. Hoskins, had a hot bat and 27 home runs before having abdominal surgery at the end of August. Eflin was one of the top three pitchers in the starting rotation.
With that being said, they’re 9-3 over their last 14 games; two of those wins were comeback victories. Let’s go a little deeper into why this team has what it takes to win this division.
There is no denying how phenomenal Bryce Harper’s second half of the regular season has been.
No Phillie has put up the numbers he has since Ryan Howard received the MVP award in 2006. Harper is sixth in batting average, second in on-base percentage, and first in slugging for the league. The Phillies are also tenth in the MLB in RBIs. Without Harper, they’re down to 23rd.
Harper has had an unbelievable impact on this team. He has answered the bell and has proven time and time again that he is the leader of this ball club. If the Phillies get to the playoffs, he should absolutely win the NL MVP.
The main question is Bryce Harper and who? Who else is going to step up to the plate with him and deliver in big time moments on a game-to-game basis?
The most logical answer is probably J.T. Realmuto who had a five-game hitting streak. Since Sept. 12, he has 19 hits along with 13 RBIs.
Can Realmuto continue to put up these numbers over the next six games? That is something that remains to be seen, but it can absolutely happen.
THE STARTING PITCHING:
This pitching staff certainly has not had the best season by any means. Last Thursday, Aaron Nola gave up six runs in his first three innings, but somehow settled in and retired 12 Pirates hitters in a row.
Nola specifically has had a rocky season and hasn’t been that Cy Young candidate pitcher a lot of people thought he was going to be. However, this pitching staff as a whole has done pretty well recently with Ranger Suarez and Zack Wheeler helping out that starting rotation tremendously.
Over his last seven games, Suarez has allowed two earned runs or fewer and has a 1.41 ERA for September which is sixth in the league.
Meanwhile, Wheeler currently has strikeouts with 240, a 14-9 win record along with a 2.79 ERA.
If the starting pitchers can have quality starts during this last stretch and go at least six or seven innings, it’s going to make it so much easier for the bullpen to operate. If the pitching unit as a whole is dominant on the mound and if the offense can produce an acceptable amount of runs, the Phillies should easily win the majority of these games.
THE ROAD AHEAD:
Tomorrow, the Phillies will take on the Braves in a three game series which could determine who comes out on top with the division. Then they finish out the regular season in Miami, who has one of the worst records in baseball.
After the conclusion of this series the Braves will face the New York Mets in their final series. By the end of this weekend, there could be a circumstance where the Braves might have to play their game that was rained out against the Colorado Rockies back on September 16. It will have to be made up if the Phillies are a half game behind or up on Atlanta.
To shake things up a little more, if both the Braves and Phillies end up having the same record at the end of all that, then those two teams would have to play in a tiebreaker and the winner would win the NL East.
All in all, this race is most likely going to come down to the wire even though there is still plenty of baseball left before the regular season is over. Now is the time for Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies to continue to stay red hot and make a move during these crucial games as the season winds down.
It is technically still possible for the Phillies to win a wildcard spot too, but with the way that the St. Louis Cardinals have been playing as they’ve won their last 16 games, it’s going to be more challenging for the Phillies to use that route.
They have to be calm, cool, and collective which is certainly capable of doing. Manager Joe Girardi is going to have to figure out what buttons he needs to press over these next handful of games.
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