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Phils know bats will be their postseason ticket

@ToddZolecki
August 14, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- Charlie Manuel has not been in a Phillies uniform in a Phillies dugout since he managed his final game for the organization on Aug. 14, 2013. He will return to the dugout on Wednesday, exactly six years later. Manuel replaced John Mallee as hitting coach on Tuesday. The

PHILADELPHIA -- Charlie Manuel has not been in a Phillies uniform in a Phillies dugout since he managed his final game for the organization on Aug. 14, 2013.

He will return to the dugout on Wednesday, exactly six years later.

Manuel replaced John Mallee as hitting coach on Tuesday. The Phillies hope he helps the offense unlock its potential in the season’s final 43 games as it tries to secure an NL Wild Card spot. Fans are pumped. A few “We want, Charlie!” chants broke out before J.T. Realmuto hit a solo homer in the fifth inning. Realmuto also drove in the go-ahead run with a double in the seventh.

Box score

But while the Phillies’ 4-2 victory over the Cubs on Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park showed they need Manuel’s help offensively -- Cubs left-hander José Quintana struck out 14 batters in six innings -- it also showed how competent pitching can go a long way, too.

Phillies left-hander Jason Vargas allowed two runs in six innings in his third start with the club. Blake Parker pitched a scoreless seventh, Mike Morin pitched a scoreless eighth and closer Héctor Neris earned his 21st save with a scoreless ninth. It was just the third time since June 25 that the Phillies got three or more scoreless innings from their bullpen and picked up a save.

But the Phillies are placing their bets on the offense coming to life and carrying them to the postseason for the first time since 2011.

They really have no choice.

“I'll say that we need contributions from every corner of the organization and every portion of our Major League team,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “At the same time, if we are going to make the kind of run that we think we're capable of, it's going to be because we score runs. We have a chance to limit damage. We have a chance to stay in baseball games. But the strength of our team right now is our offense. It hasn't been where it's needed to be thus far this season. But we certainly have the talent, and guys with the track record and a bench that's deeper now than it has been.

“Of course, we can get some strong performances from starting pitching. And we saw our bullpen take good care of us tonight. At the same time, the reason that we're going to get there is because we're going to swing the bats well.”

It makes sense. Other than Andrew McCutchen, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in June, and Maikel Franco, who got optioned to Triple-A earlier this month, the Phillies’ projected everyday lineup from Opening Day is mostly intact.

That group includes Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, Realmuto, Jean Segura, Scott Kingery and Cesar Hernandez. In-season acquisitions Jay Bruce and Corey Dickerson could help, too. Bruce is on the 10-day injured list with an injured right elbow. He is scheduled to have a diagnostic ultrasound on Wednesday. Dickerson got hit with a pitch on his left hand in the third inning on Tuesday night and left the game. He suffered a bruise and is day to day. X-rays were negative.

“We definitely feel like we’re going to have to carry the load,” Realmuto said. “Our pitching staff is going to get the job done. They’re going to do well. But we feel like as an offense that we can do better.”

If Manuel can deliver a message that resonates with Phillies hitters, maybe they can overcome a patchwork rotation and bullpen. Nobody knows if right-hander Jake Arrieta will pitch again this season because of a bone spur in his right elbow. The bullpen includes former starters Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Ranger Suárez, Morin and Parker -- who the Twins parted ways with -- and Neris, José Álvarez and Juan Nicasio, who are the only remaining relievers that opened the season in the bullpen.

For those reasons the Phillies will probably have to bash their way to the postseason. They finished the night tied with the Mets for third place in the National League East and two games behind the Cardinals for the second NL Wild Card spot.

“Obviously we feel terrible for Males,” Realmuto said. “Nobody in this clubhouse feels like it’s Males’ fault. We take it personally as an offense because it’s our job to put up runs and we didn’t do that, so it cost a guy his job. We just have to do better. Obviously, everybody here loves Charlie so we’re looking forward to working with him. We’re excited for that opportunity.”

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .