The season is coming to a close with only ten games remaining and the Phillies’ magic number to clinch the top Wild Card spot is now at 7. All three games displayed what is to come this postseason for the Phillies, especially if they indeed play the Braves again in the postseason.
In game one, the bats were on fire with a barrage of home runs. Five different Philadelphia Phillies went yard, including Johan Rojas, Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos, JT Realmuto, and finally Kyle Schwarber, who cranked a 483 ft home run, the second longest in Truist Park history. Zach Wheeler was terrific after giving up a first-inning home run to Ozzie Albies. He went 6 innings allowing only 3 hits and 5 strikeouts and giving the Phillies a quality start as they dominated the first game winning by a score of 7-1.
Tuesday night was one to forget as Spencer Strider was dominant and Ronald Acuña Jr. added two more home runs to his NL MVP campaign. Cristopher Sanchez struggled against the Atlanta offense only pitching four innings and allowing 3 runs on 7 hits. However, Harper’s power is still showing as he was responsible for all three runs scored after a 3-run-homer hit off Strider and put the Phillies on the board. The game’s biggest takeaway is that October baseball will require Manager Rob Thomson to shorten his rotation for the postseason. He tested his first idea on Tuesday by shifting Michael Lorenzen, who has been underwhelming since his no-hitter, into the bullpen to piggyback Cristopher Sanchez after he gave up 3 runs. Thomson may have to rethink this notion because Lorenzen had his worst outing of the season, allowing 4 runs while recording only one out and putting the game out the reach for the Phils. Not only will teams try to capitalize if this piggyback happens again, but Sanchez like Lorenzen will most likely revert to the bullpen and will give the Phillies another lefty arm to possibly piggyback in the bullpen.
I wanna focus on the third game because of the increasing importance of winning the series not only against Atlanta but also for an advantage in obtaining home-field in the Wild Card round. This was a late September game you’d expect from the Fightin’ Phils. Aaron Nola took the mound against Brad Elder, and the fireworks started early with an RBI single from Alec Bohm and then a tape-measure shot from Nick Castellanos to put the Phillies up 2-0. A second Castellanos home run this time going opposite field had the Phillies up 4-0 in the fourth inning. Despite an excellent outing from Nola, the Braves clawed their way back and tied the score in the eighth inning after a rare-blown lead from reliever Jeff Hoffman. In the bottom of the ninth, the Phillies looked doomed. A runner on third with one out meant the Braves needed a sac-fly and they would win the game. The Braves’ Orlando Arcia hit a sky-high ball down the right-field line and Nick Castellanos hustled over. It was seeming to tail foul but Castellanos caught it anyway, pirouetting and firing the throw to Garrett Stubbs for the final out in the ninth inning. Bryson Stott would tack on the game-winning hit in the following half inning with a two-run double which held up and the Phillies won the final game 6-5.
After the game when asked about the play, Castellanos said, “it just happened, man.”
That is the mentality the Phillies need to possess heading into the postseason. After a shaky game two, it was very important to respond the way they did and were able to win a road series. This finale was eerily familiar to Game 1 of the NLDS last year. Castellanos makes an absurd play to save the game in the late innings after he had a great game and we jumped out to an early lead. The chemistry and balance of good to bad seems to be clicking right now, it will be up to the players to have a strong last ten games and carry plenty of momentum heading into the playoffs.
With easier opponents on the way to end the season, it was good to see a Phillies series against a great team that solidifies them as a contender for this postseason. As I said before, the fashion in which they are winning is reminiscent of the iconic 2022 postseason run. It seems like every day another person comes in clutch at the plate and provides the game-changing play, which is exactly what this team needs to play in November again. I believe they are also winning in different ways which is another important piece of making a run to the Fall Classic. Good teams can win in a variety of ways. They can win by hitting lots of home runs, having to play small ball to score runs, and winning barn burner games especially as those types of games become more common later in the season.
The Phillies have ten games remaining. A four-game set begins tomorrow at home against the Mets followed by their last series at home against the Pirates. The final series of the year is on the road against the New York Mets.