Playoff-hopeful Phils 'locked in' for season-ending 10-game trip

September 26th, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- Sunday doesn't have to be the Phillies' final Citizens Bank Park moment in 2022.

They can come back here. They can change it.

They lost to the Braves in 11 innings on Sunday, 8-7, to drop their final home game of the season. The Phillies' magic number to clinch their first postseason appearance since 2011 is eight with 10 games to play. If the Phils go just 5-5 the rest of the way to finish 88-74, the Brewers need to go 7-2 to finish 89-73 to knock Philadelphia from the third NL Wild Card spot.

The math remains very much in the Phillies’ favor.

“That’s what it’s about, trying to get back here,” Kyle Schwarber said. “Have a playoff game. Have a playoff atmosphere. Obviously, that’s one of our goals. We still have to go down this line of [10] games we’ve got left, but we’re going to make this fun and exciting times and not put pressure on ourselves.”

The Phillies can clinch a postseason berth as early as Friday, but only if they win their next four games and the Brewers lose their next four. The Phils open a 10-game road trip on Tuesday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. It will be the first time Philadelphia finishes a season with at least a 10-game road trip since 1967, when the club finished with an 11-game trip.

It could be only the third time in the Expansion Era (since 1961) that a team finishes the season with at least a 10-game road trip and clinches a postseason berth during it. The Reds clinched the NL Central during a 10-game trip with a Sept. 22, 1995,  victory over the Phillies at Veterans Stadium. The Dodgers clinched the NL pennant on the final day of an 11-game road trip in Game 2 of a doubleheader on Oct. 2, 1966, against the Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium.

“It’s in our own hands right now,” Schwarber said. “We’re looking forward to this final push here. We’re going to do a really good job of taking out the exceeded pressures or whatever it is. We’ve got to enjoy this thing. It’s going to be a fun last road trip. We’re going to enjoy it, we’re going to be prepared, we’re going to be locked in.”

The Phillies could have strengthened their position with a victory Sunday. Right-hander Kyle Gibson allowed five runs in five innings, but he pitched better than his line indicated. He got 25 whiffs on 51 swings (49%). It was the third-highest whiff rate by a Phillies starter (minimum 25 swings) since at least 2008.

But Phillies center fielder Brandon Marsh did not have his sunglasses with him in the first inning and he lost a ball in the sun that Travis d'Arnaud hit to the warning track in right-center field. It fell in for a two-out run-scoring double. Matt Olson followed with a double of his own to make it 2-0.

“It was right in the middle of [the sun],” Marsh said.

Schwarber hit a leadoff homer in a three-run first inning to take a 3-2 lead. He homered again in the third to give the Phils a 4-3 lead.

Schwarber has an NL-leading 42 homers this season.

The Phillies carried a 6-5 lead into the eighth, but the Braves scored the tying run with two outs when Phillies catcher Garrett Stubbs could not block David Robertson’s 0-2 curveball in the dirt to Robbie Grossman. William Contreras scored from third on the wild pitch.

Philadelphia had an opportunity to win it in the 10th. Bryce Harper was intentionally walked to put runners on first and second with no outs. Alec Bohm struck out swinging, Jean Segura grounded out and Marsh flied out to end the inning. The Braves scored twice against Andrew Bellatti in the 11th to win it.

Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson said they never considered having Bohm bunt to move the winning run to third.

“We’re letting those three guys take a shot,” Thomson said. “And Bohm hasn’t probably ever bunted before. He’s swinging the bat well, so we’re going to go for it.”

The Phillies will need to cash in on those moments on the road. But if the season ended Sunday, they would be the third NL Wild Card and face the Cardinals in a best-of-three NL Wild Card Series series beginning on Oct. 7 in St. Louis. If they were to win that, they would play Games 1 and 2 of the NLDS on the road. That series could be against the Mets or Braves.

The next time the Phillies could potentially play a game at Citizens Bank Park would be Game 3 of the NLDS on Oct. 14.

That’s 19 days away.

“It’s been a really crazy year so far, right?” Schwarber said, addressing Phillies fans before the game. “Stay with us and we’ll see where this takes us.”