Finally, the Phillies are back in the postseason.
They clinched a National League Wild Card spot on Monday night in Houston. They will play Game 1 of a best-of-three NL Wild Card Series at 2 p.m. ET on Friday in St. Louis. You might have some questions about the Phils’ first trip to the postseason since 2011.
We tried to answer a few:
What could the postseason roster look like?
The Phillies will go from 28 players to 26 in the postseason, meaning they need to cut a couple players from the current roster. They can carry no more than 13 pitchers. One thing to consider is that there is no automatic runner in extra innings in the postseason, so teams might want to carry an extra pitcher who can pitch multiple innings.
Anyway, here is a best guess:
C: J.T. Realmuto
1B: Rhys Hoskins
2B: Jean Segura
3B: Alec Bohm
SS: Bryson Stott
LF: Kyle Schwarber
CF: Brandon Marsh
RF: Nick Castellanos
DH: Bryce Harper
Bench: C Garrett Stubbs, INF/OF Dalton Guthrie, INF/OF Nick Maton, OF Matt Vierling
Rotation: RHP Zack Wheeler, RHP Aaron Nola, LHP Ranger Suárez
Bullpen: RHP Seranthony Domínguez, RHP David Robertson, LHP José Alvarado, RHP Zach Eflin, LHP Brad Hand, RHP Andrew Bellatti, LHP Bailey Falter, RHP Connor Brogdon, RHP Nick Nelson, RHP Kyle Gibson
You may notice right-hander Noah Syndergaard is not listed here, but that is only because he could be considered the team’s No. 4 starter. The Phillies indicated they could leave their No. 4 starter off the Wild Card Series roster so he would be ready to start a potential Game 1 of the NL Division Series if the Wild Card Series goes three games. If it goes only two games, Suárez could pitch Game 1.
The final bench spot here goes to Guthrie because the Phils might lean toward defensive versatility and speed. But the other choices for this final spot are Darick Hall and Edmundo Sosa.
What about INF Edmundo Sosa?
Sosa is on the 10-day injured list with a strained right hamstring. He is recovering much better than expected, but Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson cautioned this week that Sosa might not be ready to make the Wild Card Series roster. If Sosa is healthy, his defensive prowess and speed would be a boost to Philadelphia's bench. He could be a late-inning defensive replacement at third base.
What about LHP Brad Hand?
Hand is on the 15-day injured list with tendinitis in his left elbow, but he threw batting practice on Wednesday in Houston, which Thomson said went well. He sounded optimistic that Hand will be on the Wild Card Series roster, but it depends how Hand feels on Thursday.
Who will the Phillies play?
The Phillies are the NL’s No. 6 seed, so they will play the Cardinals in the Wild Card Series in St. Louis. If the Phils win that series, they will play the Braves in a best-of-five NLDS beginning Tuesday in Atlanta.
Then, it would be the Dodgers, Mets or Padres in the NL Championship Series.
When are the Wild Card Series games?
Game 1 is at 2 p.m. ET on Friday on ABC and Game 2 is at 8:30 p.m. ET on Saturday on ESPN2. Game 3 is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET on Sunday on ESPN, though it could move up to 7:30 p.m. ET, if either the Mets-Padres series or the Rays-Guardians series does not go three games.
No home games in the Wild Card Series?
No, the Phillies will play every game of the Wild Card Series on the road. If they win the series, they will host Games 3 and 4 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. Game 3 would be Oct. 14. Game 4 (if necessary) would be Oct. 15.
Can they get to the NLCS or World Series?
Any team can go deep in the postseason if it gets on a run at the right time, and the Phillies genuinely like their chances, because they really like their top three starters in Wheeler, Nola and Suárez.
The Phillies won the season series against the Cards, 4-3, so they seem to match up well against St. Louis compared to other NL teams. For example, the Phils were 5-14 against the Mets, so it’s probably best the Padres are playing them instead.
If the Phillies get past the Cardinals, they will play the Braves, who have been ridiculously good for months -- so good that they caught the Mets to win the NL East. Philadelphia went 8-11 against the reigning World Series champions. So while Atlanta would enter that series as favorites -- and rightfully so -- an upset would not be a total stunner. Don’t believe it? Schwarber pointed out a few weeks ago that the 2015 Cubs went 7-0 in the regular season against the Mets. They faced them again in the NLCS. New York swept the series.
Oh, and don’t forget what the Wild Card-winning Cards did to the 102-win Phils in the 2011 NLDS.
Who starts Game 1?
Zack Wheeler will start the first game of the best-of-three series. This will be his fourth start since he returned from the injured list because of tendinitis in his right forearm. Thomson said Wheeler is ready to be turned loose, which is a good thing because they want Wheeler pitching as long as possible.
Who starts Game 2?
Aaron Nola. The Phillies shuffled their rotation before that nightmarish Cubs series last week so Nola could pitch on Sept. 28 instead of Sept. 29. It allowed him to make his final start of the season on Monday so he could start Game 2 on normal rest.
Who starts Game 3, if needed?
Ranger Suárez. He has pitched very well since he returned from the injured list in July following a bout of back spasms. But nobody hits left-handers better than the Cardinals, so don’t be surprised to see the Phillies potentially start a right-hander to try to navigate through Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt in the first couple of innings.