Maybe Bryce Harper’s back will feel great this weekend at Tropicana Field, and he will put up huge numbers in the Phillies’ biggest three-game series since 2011.
But even if Harper plays well, he still needs help to beat the Rays.
Even if he gets it, the Phillies still need help to make the postseason.
“You’ve got to want it,” Harper said after homering twice in Wednesday’s 12-3 victory over Washington. “You’ve got to come in here every single day and want to win, want to battle, no matter how you’re feeling.”
If the Phillies win twice, they finish 30-30, which still might not be good enough.
A sweep makes them 31-29.
The Rays clinched the AL East on Wednesday, so it is unclear how motivated they will be this weekend, although they are playing for the highest seeding. The Phillies are pitching Vince Velasquez on Friday, Zack Wheeler on Saturday and Aaron Nola on Sunday. Charlie Morton pitches Friday for the Rays.
“It’s very special when you get there,” Harper said about the postseason. “It’s one of the funnest environments I’ve ever played in. I’m very excited to hopefully be in that position this year.
"I think it would solidify us in many different ways. Not just one year, but in multiple years, being able to get free agents to come in here, because they know that we’re a postseason team that they can come to and help us win.
"I think we’re a postseason organization. You saw it for a long period of time. We need to get back there. That’s why I came here. I came here to win. I came here to be successful as an organization I came here to get the Philadelphia Phillies back to Broad Street.”
Here is a look at who the Phillies are chasing this weekend:
Marlins (four games to play): The Marlins (28-28) have lost four consecutive games, but while only a half-game separates them from the Phillies, Miami owns the tiebreaker because they went 7-3 against Philadelphia this season.
Even if the Phillies win two of their final three games and the Marlins split their last four, the Marlins will get second place in the NL East.
Miami plays the Braves on Thursday night and finishes with a three-game series against the Yankees in New York.
Miami’s Pablo López (5-4, 3.96 ERA) faces Ian Anderson (3-1, 2.36 ERA) on Thursday. The Marlins and Yankees have not announced their weekend probables, but it lines up like this: Sandy Alcántara (3-2, 3.12 ERA) vs. J.A. Happ (2-2, 3.25 ERA) on Friday, Trevor Rogers (1-2, 6.82 ERA) vs. Deivi García (2-2, 4.88 ERA) on Saturday and José Ureña (0-3, 6.00 ERA) vs. a potential opener on Sunday. The Yankees plan to play their big bats, including Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Both missed time this season with injuries and need to get their timing back.
Cardinals and Brewers (five games remaining): They play a five-game series beginning Thursday in St. Louis. The Cardinals (27-26) are second in the NL Central, but have the same winning percentage (.509) as the Reds. The Brewers (27-28) have the same winning percentage as the Phillies (.491). The Cardinals own the tiebreaker over the Phillies because they have a better intradivision record (19-16) than Philadelphia (20-19). The Phillies own the tiebreaker over the Brewers (17-18 in their division).
Giants (five games remaining): Gabe Kapler’s Giants play the Rockies on Thursday afternoon before finishing with four games at home against the Padres, including a seven-inning doubleheader Friday.
The Padres have right-handers Dinelson Lamet (3-1, 2.07 ERA) and Chris Paddack (4-4, 4.23 ERA) scheduled to pitch the doubleheader. There is no telling how the Giants will play the weekend. They used an opener Wednesday against Colorado.
The Phillies own the tiebreaker over the Giants, who are 16-18 in their division.
Reds (three games remaining): The Reds finish with a three-game series against the Twins in Minneapolis. The Twins should be motivated. They just moved into first place in the AL Central. If they finish first, it makes them no worse than the No. 3 seed, which allows them to host the No. 6 Astros. If they finish in second place and fall to the No. 4 seed, they host the Yankees.
The Twins have a bad postseason history against the Yankees. They would like to avoid them.
The Reds’ Tyler Mahle (2-2, 3.57 ERA) is scheduled to face José Berríos (5-3, 3.72 ERA) on Friday. Luis Castillo (4-5, 2.86 ERA) is lined up to face Michael Pineda (2-0, 3.18 ERA) on Saturday. If the Reds need to make the postseason on Sunday, there is talk that Trevor Bauer (5-4, 1.73 ERA) could pitch again on short rest. He just did it Wednesday. The Twins have Rich Hill (2-2, 3.27 ERA) scheduled to pitch Sunday.
The Reds have the same division record (20-19) as the Phillies, but the next tiebreaker is highest winning percentage in the past 20 intradivision games. The Reds (12-8) have the edge over the Phillies (8-12) there.