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Phils 'fighting for each other' to finish line

Ballclub acknowledges postseason odds after beating Braves in opener
@ToddZolecki
September 18, 2019

ATLANTA -- The Phillies know they need a miracle to reach the postseason. They are not running from that reality anymore. They know they have two choices in how they respond to those long shot odds: Fight or quit. They showed some resolve on Tuesday night with a 5-4 victory

ATLANTA -- The Phillies know they need a miracle to reach the postseason. They are not running from that reality anymore.

They know they have two choices in how they respond to those long shot odds: Fight or quit. They showed some resolve on Tuesday night with a 5-4 victory over the Braves at SunTrust Park.

Box score

The Phillies are four games behind the Cubs and Brewers for the second NL Wild Card spot with 13 games to play. Chicago and Milwaukee each have 11 games remaining. Even if both teams finish 5-6, the Phillies would need to go 10-3 to force a three-way tie.

It is why FanGraphs lists the Phillies’ postseason odds at just 0.6 percent.

“I think first and foremost, we still have odds, and we know that,” Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins said. “Sure, we know they may be long and we have a lot of work to do, but we’re still in it, and I think getting this win tonight is huge.”

The Phillies need to finish 5-8 for their first winning record since 2011. It is not exactly a welcome consolation prize considering the organization’s expectations entering the season and a 33-22 start, but a losing record could be considered nothing less than a major disappointment.

“We spent a lot of time today talking about the importance of these last 14 games,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “We know where we are in the standings, we know what the numbers say, but that’s not what we’re paying attention to right now. We’re paying attention to fighting for each other all the way through the finish line. We talked a lot about that today.”

The Phillies did not show much fight at the end of last season. In fact, an argument can be made that some players in the clubhouse quit. It resulted in nine losses in their final 11 games to finish 80-82, and the front office acknowledged it needed to be more careful about the players it brought into the fold.

The players that lived through last season’s collapse remember those final days well.

“Sure, everyone that was part of that last year carries that with them,” Hoskins said. “Maybe it holds a little more weight now, especially that we’re here, but I think that’s kind of with guys throughout the whole year. Nobody wants to go through what we went through last year at the end of the year, nobody likes watching people clinch. I think everybody in the whole league is in the same boat there. But we still have a chance, and we know it. It started tonight, and we just have to continue it tomorrow.”

Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez allowed two runs in the first inning and looked like he might have a short night. But he kept his composure and pitched four more scoreless frames. Hoskins hit a two-run homer to right field in the fourth against Braves left-hander Dallas Keuchel. César Hernández knocked in a run on a fielder’s choice and Jose Pirela also hit a two-run homer to left to hand the Phillies a 5-2 lead.

But the Braves came back. They cut the lead to two entering the ninth when pinch-hitter Adam Duvall hit a first-pitch solo homer to left field against Phillies closer Héctor Neris to make it a one-run game. Neris walked a pair and allowed a stolen base to Ronald Acuña Jr. to put the tying run at third base and the winning run at first, but Neris got Josh Donaldson to strike out looking and Nick Markakis to pop out to end the game.

“Everywhere you go throughout the clubhouse, those conversations are happening about how important it is to stay focused,” Kapler said. “Not just to stay focused, but to be strong and together and to fight really hard. The other thing we’ve talked about this year is to play for the big inning. I think today, the reason we won the game in addition to Hector’s composure and Vinnie’s composure, is that we were able to put a big inning on the board highlighted by a really good swing by Rhys Hoskins.”

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .