This is a familiar September story.
The Phillies are limping to the finish and fading from the National League postseason picture with only four games remaining in the season. They did so the past two years, which ultimately cost former manager Gabe Kapler his job. The latest stumble can be
This is a familiar September story.
The Phillies are limping to the finish and fading from the National League postseason picture with only four games remaining in the season. They did so the past two years, which ultimately cost former manager Gabe Kapler his job. The latest stumble can be pinned on others, including a bullpen that remains on pace to be one of the worst in baseball history.
Phillies right-hander Brandon Workman threw the decisive pitch in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s 8-7 loss to the Nationals in Game 2 of a seven-inning doubleheader at Nationals Park. After Philadelphia took a one-run lead in the top of the extra inning, 32-year-old rookie Yadiel Hernandez hit Workman’s 2-1 cutter for a walk-off two-run home run.
• Box score
After also falling, 5-1, in Game 1, the Phillies dropped to 27-29 and into 10th place in the eight-team NL postseason field -- one game behind the Reds (28-28), Brewers (27-27) and Giants (27-27), with the four clubs likely battling for the two Wild Card spots.
“This obviously isn’t what I was looking for when I came over here,” Workman said. “It wasn’t what the team was looking for.”
But it is the Phillies’ reality. A team with a franchise-record payroll and almost no expense spared over the past several years to rebuild the organization, from a new analytics department to a retooled farm system, has only a 36.6 percent chance to make the postseason, according to FanGraphs.
It had an 87 percent chance on Saturday.
“It definitely feels like a bad dream,” Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto said. “The bottom line is we have to play better, and we have to play better in a hurry. We’re still in it. We’re not eliminated yet. We still have a chance to make the playoffs. We just have to play better baseball all around.
"There’s not one area that’s really killing us. There’s not one area that we can’t improve to play better baseball and get to the playoffs. We just have to do it. We’re running out of time a little bit, but mathematically it’s possible.”
“We have to fight out of it starting tomorrow,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “And we’ve got to win games. That's the bottom line. Now we have to rely on other people. And we have to win games.”
The Phillies have lost four consecutive games and 14 of their last 22. There are many reasons why. There have been injuries. Realmuto played Tuesday for the first time since Sept. 12 because of a strained left hip flexor. His two-out infield single in the sixth inning of Game 2 scored a run to tie the game. Realmuto’s hip throbbed after sprinting down the line, but he said he is fine and expects to play Wednesday.
Bryce Harper has been playing with a bad back for weeks. Rhys Hoskins has not played since Sept. 12 because of an injured left arm. Right-handers Jake Arrieta and Spencer Howard are injured.
Those things matter. But the defense has been poor, and the organization’s pitching depth has been glaring. The Phillies’ bullpen has a 7.11 ERA, which is on pace for the second-highest ERA of any bullpen in history. The Phils acquired three late-inning relievers before the Aug. 31 Trade Deadline. Workman is 1-4 with a 6.92 ERA in 14 appearances. Heath Hembree had a 12.54 ERA in 11 appearances before landing on the 10-day IL with an injured right elbow. David Phelps is 0-1 with a 12.91 ERA in 10 appearances.
“All the things you listed, yeah, they’re true, but those are excuses,” Workman said. “At the end of the day, if we miss the playoffs, nobody cares. This has been a tough season for everybody across the league with scheduling and different things we’ve dealt with, so that’s not an excuse that we’re going to use. That’s not something anybody really cares about to be honest with you.
"You can sit there and feel bad for yourself because you played a lot of games or had people get hurt or whatever, but that’s just part of the game. Everybody is going through stuff like that right now, and like I said, at the end of the day, nobody cares. We’ve got to get our job done, and personally I have to do my job -- light years better than what I’m doing.”
The Phillies play the Nationals one more time on Wednesday. They finish the season this weekend against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay has the best record in the American League.
“We’re not out of this thing yet,” Realmuto said. “It takes one play to change the course of the season, especially this close to the playoffs.”
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .