Almost 3,000 miles away from Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies’ playoff hopes were revitalized with one swing of the bat.
The Giants and Padres were in the bottom of the seventh inning in Game 2 of a doubleheader. The Giants were the away team at Oracle Park. They had won the first game by a narrow margin and were looking for a sweep. Gabe Kapler opted to keep the struggling right-hander Sam Coonrod to face Padres’ lead-off man Trent Grisham with one out.
Down by two and with two on, Grisham launched a ball toward McCovey Cove. The Padres walked it off in San Francisco and kept the Phillies, even if just for a moment, in the postseason hunt.
Why was Grisham’s three-run home run so important? If the Giants had swept yesterday’s doubleheader, their magic number to clinch a playoff spot would have been one. To make the playoffs, the Phillies would have needed the Giants to lose out in addition to them winning both of their remaining games against the Rays.
Now, the Phillies could wake up tomorrow in control of their own destiny. A Phillies win on Saturday and a Giants loss will set up a win and you’re in situation on Sunday with their ace Aaron Nola on the mound. Even if they lose that game, they could still make the playoffs with a Giants loss on the final day of the season as well as a Brewers loss on either Saturday or Sunday.
On the flip side, the Phillies could be eliminated from postseason contention as early as tonight. A Phillies loss and Giants win will gift San Francisco the final postseason spot in the National League. The Dodgers, Braves, Cubs, Padres, Marlins and Reds have all clinched their spot.
Four teams are competing for two spots: the Cardinals, Brewers, Giants and Phillies. One of those spots has to go to either the Cardinals or Brewers as second place in the NL Central is still up for grabs. The Phillies can finish only as high as eighth place, which would set up a date with the Dodgers if they do manage to squeeze in to the postseason.
What’s working against the Phillies is the fact that the Padres have absolutely nothing to play for. They’re locked into the No. 4 seed. It would be wise for them to play it safe and not risk injuring any of their star players, especially considering one of their best pitchers, Dinelson Lamet, went down with an injury in last night’s game.Embed from Getty Images
The Rays’ magic number to clinch the No. 1 seed in the American League is down to one. Any combination of a Rays win or A’s loss will do it. They will most likely get the top seed but it’s important to keep in mind that there is something at stake in these final two games for Tampa Bay.
It’s easy to get caught up in this and think the Phillies have no chance. FanGraphs gives them a 29.1% chance but with the way this team looks on some nights, it might as well be zero. The Phillies haven’t won a Zack Wheeler outing since Sept. 7. If they find themselves with a lead, the bullpen cannot be trusted to hold on to it.
Even if they did make the playoffs, what makes anyone think they could win a three-game series against the best team in baseball?
Phillies fans will most likely get something they want no matter what happens from now until Sunday. If they make the playoffs, the Phillies can say they don’t own the second-longest postseason drought in the sport and fans can finally watch their team play meaningful October baseball. If they don’t, personnel changes in the front office are likely to come.
A deep postseason run is probably the only thing that can save the Matt Klentak/Andy MacPhail regime. Perhaps there is a scenario in which you can have your cake and eat it too.
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