Kapler: 'You'll see our best' in late September

September 16th, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies flew to Atlanta on Sunday, more than 48 hours before they open an 11-game road trip.

The trip through Atlanta (three games), Cleveland (three games) and Washington (five games) once looked like it could make or break the Phillies’ postseason dreams. But following a 4-7 stretch that culminated with a pair of losses over the weekend to the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park, the Phils essentially dashed those hopes before they stepped on the field for Tuesday’s series opener against the Braves at SunTrust Park. Philadelphia is 4 1/2 games behind the Cubs for the second National League Wild Card with 14 games to play. Chicago has 13 games remaining; if it finishes just 6-7, Philly would need to finish 11-3 to tie.

The Phillies have not had an 11-3 run since April 2018.

Even if the Phillies play their best baseball in nearly two seasons and the Cubs struggle, they would need the red-hot Brewers to stumble, too. They are 3 1/2 games ahead of the Phils.

It is why FanGraphs lists the Phillies’ postseason odds at just 0.7 percent. If you wonder how they get that number, FanGraphs takes the current standings, the remaining schedule and the team’s projected performance, and then it simulates the season 10,000 times. The Phils won a Wild Card in only 70 of those simulations.

But these games still carry some significance.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler’s contract runs through next season, but there is speculation about his job status beyond this year. The same holds true for pitching coach Chris Young. The Phils need to finish just 6-8 to have their first winning record since 2011. It is far from what fans or managing partner John Middleton expected when the organization spent more than $500 million on free agents the past two seasons, but at the very least, they must not finish below .500.

A 6-8 record is doable, even with the team’s recent struggles. But Kapler and Co. cannot afford a repeat performance of what happened late last year. The Phillies went 8-20 last September, including 11 losses in their final 15 games.

The Phillies need to play much better than that. Kapler likes to talk about how his team scratches, claws, fights and never quits. They need to show some fight in the season’s final 14 games. Jobs are at stake. Even then, there could be changes.

“From here on out, it’s like Game 7 of a playoff series every time we play a baseball game,” Kapler said Sunday. “Tough or not, challenge or not, it’s our job. It’s the only choice we have. We’re going to do this as a team. We have no choice but to continue to fight. Sometimes you see the best come out in people when their backs are against the wall. Ours are against the wall, and my expectation is that you’ll see our best.”