MLB Wild Card: J.T. Realmuto, Kyle Gibson lead Phillies to sixth straight win

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The Phillies continue to pounce on basement dwellers and suffocate them early, leaving the weakest teams in the National League little chance of coming back.

It bodes well with another 13 games in a row against sub-.500 clubs.

Just as they did Friday night and all week, the Phillies rode an early attack to a relatively comfortable win. They scored three runs in the first inning on JT Realmuto’s bases-clearing double and went on to cross a 6-0 victory, their sixth in a row.

The Phils defeated their opponents 22-1 in the first three innings of those six games.

“You know, last year that was our downfall, honestly,” pitcher Kyle Gibson said of the Phillies’ ability to beat teams buried in the standings.

“This year our mentality was a bit sharper and with a bit more head start than we’ve had in the past. It’s easy to get lax or complacent when you play against these teams. Especially lately we’ve done a great job by playing against these teams out and take the lead early and really set the tone of the game.

“I’ve been on those teams where you lose 100 games and every time you give up runs early it feels like, ‘Here we go again.’ I assume some of the teams we’ve played in have had that feeling. That’s what you want as the team playing for the playoffs. You want them to get into that mood and it will be hard for them to come back. That has been the biggest difference.”

Realmuto has been one of the best baseball players for the past five weeks. He has racked up 26 runs in his last 27 games, fourth in the majors over that period behind Paul Goldschmidt, Aaron Judge and Pete Alonso.

Realmuto has an extra-base hit and/or an RBI in eight straight games and the odds should hold up with Bryce Harper hitting back for him. Harper, in his second game since returning from a broken left thumb, singled in the first inning, just like Friday. It loaded the bases for Realmuto. Harper was later walked intentionally.

“Since I’ve been here, sometimes we’ve almost downplayed our competition,” Realmuto said. “For me that is a big difference in our season. We have played well all season against the teams we have to tackle.”

The Phillies have opened up a nice cushion in the wild card race. They are second of three wildcard spots with a 2½ game lead over the Padres and a five game lead over the Brewers.

There are a lot of really bad teams in baseball this season, and since the Phillies were swept out of the All-Star break by the Cubs, the Phillies are 18-2 against clubs with losing records.

Since June 1, the Phillies have had five different winning streaks of at least five games. At 72-55, they’re just as far above .500 as they have been since the last day of the 2011 season, and it’s been so long since they’ve had so many hitters at the same time.

The Phillies are 23-9 in their last 32 games. Nick Castellanos, Alec Bohm and Realmuto each hit between .323 and .333 during that stretch. Bryson Stott hit .295 with pop. Jean Segura hasn’t been back in all that time, but he hit .344 with a .427 on-base percentage in his last 19 games. And he is now the 8-hole batter.

Remember when Kyle Schwarber wore the Phillies’ bout from June 1 to mid-July? Schwarber has had one home run in the past three weeks and the Phils went 14-7. They face inferior pitching and sloppy defenses, but they find ways to score even when their home run hitters don’t go deep.

Gibson took the win in his 25th start and improved to 9-5 with a 4.08 ERA. He struckout nine batters in seven scoreless innings in one of his best starts of the year.

The Phils look set to win the seven-game streak against the Pirates on Sunday afternoon, behind Noah Syndergaard, whose four starts as Phillie have all led to victories.

“September 1 may be a little early to think about it, but when you’re in a playoff spot, it’s easier to think about it,” Gibson said. “You try to fight those thoughts until you can cling and until you can get to that point, but absolutely, it’s something you think about.”

35 games to go.

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The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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