Last night, we made it happen and with a little help, the Phillies Red October is back with the Number One Wild Card seed.
The reigning champions of the National League, the Philadelphia Phillies, are making a return to the postseason following their extra-inning triumph over the Pittsburgh Pirates (PHI 3, PIT 2) on Tuesday night. This victory has secured them a spot in the playoffs as the top wild-card team of the National League. Coupled with the Cubs’ defeat against the Braves, the Phillies are now settled in the No. 4 seed and are set to host the second wild-card team (NL’s No. 5 seed) at Citizens Bank Park in the Wild Card Series next week.
Currently, four out of the six NL postseason slots have been claimed. The Atlanta Braves (NL East) and Los Angeles Dodgers (NL West) have emerged as the division victors, thereby earning a Wild Card Series bye. The Milwaukee Brewers, on the other hand, have clinched a postseason berth and are on the verge of claiming the NL Central title with either their next win or a Chicago Cubs loss. The Phillies have bagged the top wild-card spot. The bracket is as follows:
BYE: Braves and Dodgers WC1: TBD (third wild-card team) at Brewers WC2: TBD (second wild-card team) at Phillies
The berth was clinched by the Phillies courtesy of rookie Johan Rojas’ decisive walk-off single in the 10th inning.
This marks the Phillies’ consecutive appearance in the postseason, breaking a 10-year dry spell which was the longest in the National League before the previous season. Last year, after winning 87 games, they entered the postseason as the third wild-card team and advanced all the way to the World Series, albeit losing in six games to the Houston Astros. This achievement marked Philadelphia’s third pennant in a span of 15 years. The Phillies Red October is here.
Much like the last season, the Phillies had a slow start this year but gained momentum during midseason. They hit a low on June 2 with a record of 25-32, standing seven games below .500. However, they turned the tide and since then, have held a commendable record of 63-37, with only the NL East rival Braves (67-32) having a better record. They are among the mere seven teams that have secured a winning record against teams with a .500 or better record this year.
The Phillies appear to be a team better suited for a short postseason series compared to the long haul of the 162-game season. Their lineup brims with power, a vital asset for October, and besides Kyle Schwarber, they have players with a plus hit tool capable of holding their own against top-level pitching.
This season saw Rhys Hoskins sidelined due to a knee injury sustained during spring training. In his absence, Bryce Harper has mostly filled in as the first baseman, allowing Schwarber to take up the DH role. This shift opens up an outfield spot for either Cristian Pache or Johan Rojas daily, with a Pache-Rojas-Brandon Marsh outfield being a solid defensive configuration in tight games.
The Phillies boast six bona fide MLB starters — Michael Lorenzen, Aaron Nola, Cristopher Sánchez, Ranger Suárez, Taijuan Walker, and Zack Wheeler — although only Wheeler is confirmed for the postseason rotation. Nola, despite a less than stellar season and it being his free agent season, is likely to join, although there are other options should the Phillies opt for a change.
Concerns loom over the Phillies’ ninth inning with Craig Kimbrel, although an All-Star this season, has been walking a tightrope recently as evidenced by his game-tying home run conceded in the eighth inning on Tuesday. He’s not been the shutdown closer he was once renowned to be. Nonetheless, Manager Rob Thomson has some late-inning alternatives in José Alvarado, Jeff Hoffman, Gregory Soto, and possibly rookie Orion Kerkering.
A year back, the Phillies embarked on an unexpected journey to the World Series, falling just two wins short of a championship title. They were true underdogs then, a tag that won’t apply this postseason. Having made a remarkable run last year and then signing Turner, they aren’t likely to catch anyone by surprise this time around. With a powerful lineup and a deeper pitching roster compared to last year, the Phillies are well-positioned for a promising October run.