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After a more satisfying set against a divisional rival, the Philadelphia Phillies faithful can approach the final road trip with the most September hope in years. But the journey to the playoffs is more than the current magic number: eight. Ergo, there are multiple contributors producing this winning mojo. Fodder for naysayers, perhaps?
Eleven Seasons After 2011:
Having postseason success requires everyone on the 40-man roster to fill in for players on the injured list, and it needs reserves to step up for struggling regulars. Moreover, secondary hurlers for the rotation and the pen must also. And, yes, many youngsters have embraced the challenge of serious October baseball.
Put Another Way:“Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Put Another Way:
“Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
After the final 10 games and into the Wild Card Series, Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Ranger Suarez will handle those three contests. But if the Fightins win the first two battles, Suarez and Wheeler would start the first two games of the National League Division Series. Note: Nola has a 2.08 September ERA with two outings remaining, and one may be a tune-up.
With the rotation already set, the only question is the fourth arm, who could be Bailey Falter. Or it could be Noah Syndergaard or Kyle Gibson. However, either could relief Falter if he has a shortened appearance: Playoff hooks are quick.
While Gibson and Syndergaard are probably long men, Zach Eflin could provide meaningful innings after the sixth frame. And the last three innings would be in the hands of David Robertson, Jose Alvarado and Seranthony Dominguez. Realistically, Tommy John surgery affects location more than velocity, and management is carefully monitoring Dominguez.
Phillies (83-69) Postseason Threat;
(all stats through Sept. 26)
Milwaukee Brewers (82-71) at home:
Phillies Away Rotation:
Phillies Away Rotation for the Wild Card Series:
With the injuries to Eflin and Wheeler, Falter went from a spot starter to the four slot on the five-man staff. Basically, he can field 5-6 frames if he has control and keeps the team in the game: He has a 3.55 ERA for August and September. If he doesn’t, either Syndergaard or Gibson will relieve him before the contest goes sideways.
Twice, Bryson Stott has recently allowed an error to affect his defense later in the game: He’s only human. With the bat, though, he’s hitting .264 for August and September. Unfortunately, many fans and national writers only look at his overall stats, but GMs do more: He won’t surprise the competition.
Although Brandon Marsh had arrived in Philly with a .226 average, hitting coach Kevin Long honed Marsh’s swing with less moving parts to reap better results. In red pinstripes, he’s batting .297 and has risen in the lineup in addition to his stellar glove work. But some locals see .244 with 10 bombs and 50 RBIs, and they sour on him.
Despite the recent absence of Nick Castellanos, Matt Vierling and Nick Maton have provided more than solid defense. Vierling, so far, is averaging .256 in the second half besides his clutch hitting. Meanwhile, Maton is at .258 in his utility role and has also put his fingerprints on some Phillies victories. Don’t overlook their value.
Armchair skippers love to outmanage Rob Thomson, and they frequently view Kyle Schwarber leading off as a definite mistake they would correct. That stated, Schwarber has 29 RBIs since the All-Star break by driving in the productive lineup’s bottom, and he leads the club with 87 RBIs. Does it matter where he hits with men on base?
In old-school baseball, the best hitter was in the three slot and the slugger batted cleanup. Today, the RBI spots are the two and four holes. Rhys Hoskins and many other run producers bat second: It’s not a managerial error. Presently, the first sacker has 32 RBIs in the second half and has a higher average than the big left fielder.
Realmuto is proving he is also an offensive weapon.
Batting fourth, J.T. Realmuto has 44 RBIs, 13 homers and a .316 mark since the All-Star break. So, Thomson and the coaches are spot-on with his workload, and he’s stealing bags and gunning down “dirt-eating” runners, who challenge him. And keep in mind, this is another reliable second half coming down to the final battles, but this time he’s fresh.
Besides the obvious benefits to resting Realmuto, others are fresher with days off to relax for improved energy and strength. And it also includes having reserves finish non-competitive contests. However, some aren’t buying into that thinking because it wasn’t like that 50 years ago.
New York Mets skipper Buck Showalter is that kind of manager. Yes, he’s started his two main offensive weapons Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor in all but one game each. And it was only recently they had a day off, and some in the New York media have referred to this as going to the whip: a horse-racing metaphor.
Apparently, Atlanta Braves skipper Brian Snitker has a similar mindset by not replacing stars even with a lopsided score according to complaining fans who follow every pitch. But he did give Matt Olson a day off because he was slumping: eight hits in 83 at-bats. Basically, he runs things like Showalter.
Barring a sweep by the Mets or Braves next weekend in Hotlanta, both teams may go all out for the NL East title through game 162. And the second-place franchise may not have time to reset and rest their rotation. However, the Phils will likely have no such difficulty, and what will they have if they face their divisional foe on the road? One advantage!
NOTE: Rotational Obstacles