Division race heats up as Phils keep winning

July 18th, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- Minutes after hit a two-run, walk-off home run on Sunday afternoon to win a game suspended on Saturday night because of rain, the Phillies put the Mets-Pirates game on Phanavision.

Phillies fans at Citizens Bank Park cheered when the Mets made a ghastly play to give Pittsburgh a six-run, first-inning lead. It felt a little -- just a little -- like the final game of 2007, when Phillies fans stood and roared 20 minutes before first pitch as the out-of-town scoreboard in right field showed Miami taking a commanding first-inning lead over the Mets at Shea Stadium. The Phillies later beat the Nationals to clinch their first division title since 1993.

The Phillies’ 7-4 victory over the Marlins in Sunday’s series finale kept them two games behind the Mets in the National League East.

“This is kind of what we envisioned for our team, so it’s kind of been a lot of fun to get together and get into a groove,” Realmuto said. “Winning all these series in a row, that’s how you get to the postseason, so we just have to keep it up.”

The Phillies are making things interesting as the July 30 Trade Deadline approaches. They are 10-4 (.714) this month, which is tied with the Dodgers for the best record in baseball. They have won four consecutive series for the first time since 2018. Meanwhile, the Mets look vulnerable. They placed ace Jacob deGrom on the 10-day injured list on Sunday because of tightness in his right forearm. They placed shortstop Francisco Lindor on the IL on Saturday because of a strained oblique. There are no timetables for either player’s return.

The Phillies are mostly healthy and have a very favorable schedule the rest of the way. Entering Sunday, according to FanGraphs, their remaining opponents had a combined .487 winning percentage, which gives them the easiest remaining schedule in the division and the third-easiest remaining schedule in the NL. Mets opponents have a .507 winning percentage, which gives them the fourth-most difficult schedule in the league.

“We’ve got to prove that we can win,” Phillies ace Zack Wheeler said. “It’s as simple as that. They’re not going to buy if we’re not consistent. To be able to go out there and win some games and show that we’re serious and show the front office that we’re serious, that definitely helps.”

The Phillies took a 2-0 lead in the second inning in the series finale, but Wheeler allowed four runs in the third when Marlins pitcher Braxton Garrett keyed a rally with a one-out single to right and Adam Duvall hit a two-out, two-run homer to hand Miami a 4-2 lead.

The Phillies battled back. Andrew McCutchen and Didi Gregorius each hit solo homers in the fifth to tie the game at 4. Pinch-hitters Travis Jankowski and Brad Miller hit back-to-back singles to start the sixth. Jean Segura’s sacrifice fly and McCutchen’s fielder’s choice scored both runners to give the Phillies the lead.

Héctor Neris, who pitched two scoreless innings in Saturday’s suspended game, pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the save.

“We have a team that can get on these streaks of playing good, consistent baseball,” McCutchen said. “Staying in the game no matter what the score is. Just keeping it close. We have the team that regardless if we're down, we have a team that can score runs. We showed that today. We felt like we're in that game the entire time even when we were down by a couple of runs.”

The Mets came back to beat the Pirates at PNC Park, 7-6. It gave them a little breathing room entering the week.

But the Phillies can keep the heat on New York. And the better they play, the Phillies' front office might be more willing to pull the trigger on a trade or two to help them before the Trade Deadline.

“Hopefully we’re making the right case,” Realmuto said. “We’d like to not have made the case this late. We’d like to have played a little better earlier in the season, but now that we’ve got everybody back on the field and playing well, we’re doing all we can to convince them to go out and get what we need, and [that] we’re here to compete and get to the postseason. So we just have to keep playing well and keep winning series and put the pressure on them to get us some help.”