CHICAGO -- The Phillies entered September in a good position to make their first postseason appearance since 2011. At the time, they were holding the second NL Wild Card and they were three games clear of the Brewers for a playoff spot.
But a September losing skid has changed that for the Phils, something that’s all too familiar in Philadelphia. After being swept out of Wrigley Field following Thursday afternoon's 2-0 loss to the Cubs, the Phillies have lost five straight games and 10 of their past 13.
“Take the same approach every day,” interim manager Rob Thomson said. “We lost some games here and we’ve lost the lead on the Wild Card, so we've got to go out and win games. We've got to swing the bat [and] score some runs.”
The most recent loss moves the Phils (83-72) into a tie with the Brewers (83-72) for the final NL Wild Card spot. Philadelphia owns the tiebreaker over Milwaukee as a result of winning the head-to-head season series, four games to two. If the Brewers beat the Marlins on Thursday evening, the Phils will fall outside the playoff picture for the first time since July 27.
“We've got to be better, of course,” Bryce Harper said. “We’re getting late in the season, we need to pick it up and play our game.”
The September collapse has been all too familiar for the Phillies over the years. The team hasn’t had a winning September since 2017, which has made it difficult on their postseason chances.
Entering Sept 1: 68-64 (three games back in Wild Card race)
September record: 13-14
Finished: 82-80 (eight games back of final Wild Card spot)
Entering Sept. 1: 69-65 (3 1/2 games back in Wild Card race)
September record: 12-16
Finished: 81-81 (eight games back of final Wild Card spot)
Entering Sept. 1: 72-62 (two games behind Braves for NL East lead)
September record: 8-20
Finished: 80-82 (10 games behind Braves)
Despite another disappointing September record (10-14) this season, the Phils still believe in their chances and are hoping to move past their recent struggles.
“For me, personally, I don’t think any guy on this team has that mindset of, ‘Oh, here we go again,’” Harper said. “Different group of guys, different team and we’re ready to just get on with this series and get going into D.C. We've got some work ahead of us, but at the same time, we’re in this and we’re ready to go.”
The Phils haven’t played up to their level over the past two weeks, especially in this series against the Cubs. The offense scored just three runs in 27 innings and Philadelphia was shut out with just five hits on Thursday.
“As a team, we scored three runs in three games -- that’s bad,” Jean Segura said. “Regardless, we have way too many good hitters here and we've got such a really good club to [only] score three runs. To be honest, it’s embarrassing.”
Miscues on the bases -- Segura was picked off when he incorrectly thought Nick Maton had drawn a walk -- and in the outfield -- Brandon Marsh misplayed a routine flyball in center after losing it in the sun -- are also things that the Phils need to improve on over the next six days.
But even with the recent skid, there’s still optimism around Philadelphia’s clubhouse.
“We’re a great team in here,” Harper said. “We have a lot of great players. [President of baseball operations Dave] Dombrowski put this team together to win games to get into the playoffs -- and we need to do that.”
Added Segura: "Absolutely, we got seven games left. We still have a shot. We have to go into D.C., take care of business and play pretty good baseball in Houston. It’s not going to be easy and we have to step [up].”
A lineup that features Harper, Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto and Nick Castellanos can get hot at any time. The starters pitched well against the Cubs, with Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Ranger Suárez each delivering at least six innings.
“We need to be better in all facets of the game,” Harper said. “I think our starting pitching has been great. But our hitting, we haven’t been hitting on any cylinders as of right now.”
The recent slide hasn’t helped the Phils’ postseason chances, but they’re ready to move on, forget about the Chicago series and finish the season strong, starting with a doubleheader on Friday against the Nationals.
“We’re still in it,” Harper said. “We have seven games left. We've got a road ahead, but we've got to keep playing and got to keep going.”