MLB Wild Card: Phillies’ magic number at 3 after doubleheader split and Brewers late loss

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WASHINGTON — This is what a playoff race looks like behind the scenes in real time.

The Phillies had just rolled over the Washington Nationals 8-2 in the second game of a doubleheader Saturday night to lead a half game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers in the battle for the National League’s final wildcard playoff spot.

A time zone later, the Brewers led with a run in the top of the ninth inning, but the visiting Miami Marlins loomed.

A shirtless Rhys Hoskins emerged from the trainer’s room, cell phone in hand, riveted on the Milwaukee action.

Bryan De La Cruz stood at the plate for Miami with runners in second and third place. Devin Williams was on the mound for Milwaukee trying to protect a one-point lead.

The count was full. Hoskins wondered aloud which pitch Williams De La Cruz would throw. Williams threw a change-up and…

“Come on! Yes!” Hoskins shouted when he saw De La Cruz double into left field to score the tying and go-ahead runs.

Cries of joy came from all corners of the Phillies clubhouse, from inside the shower, from the back of the coaching room.

“Go Fairy!” shouted someone with a Spanish accent.

The Marlins, who had tormented the Phillies so often over the years, helped them on this occasion. Their 4-3 win over Milwaukee, combined with the Phillies’ win on Saturday-evening, gave the Phillies a full lead over the Brewers with four left to play.

The Phillies’ magic number for making the postseason for the first time since 2011 has fallen to three. The Marlins have helped the Phillies with late rallies against the Brewers on two of the last three nights.

Kyle Schwarber watched the Marlins rally in the trainers room. Moments later, he emerged with a smile on his face.

“Baseball is fun,” he said. “That’s why we’re all saying you should enjoy this. A lot of people aren’t in this position right now. A lot of people are making their off-season plans now and we’re trying to make sure we don’t.”

What a baseball day it was for the Phillies. They played poorly in the opener, losing 13-4 to the worst team in baseball. The Phils played poorly on defense in the second inning of that game, leading to five runs. In the grand scheme of things, the loss put the Phils in a tie with Milwaukee.

Between games, Schwarber said the Phillies regrouped.

“Obviously we had to play better,” he said.

But Schwarber tried to spread a more calming message, one he learned as a young player with the Chicago Cubs: Post-season chases don’t always happen. Get rid of the pressure. Enjoy it.

Then he came out for the second game and put his money where his mouth was. He hit the second pitch of the game over the wall in rightfield. It was one of five homeruns the Phillies hit against righthander Tommy Romero, who just made his second start in the big league. Schwarber hit his leading 43rd and 44th.

“I think it got us back on track,” Noah Syndergaard said of Schwarber’s home run in the first inning.

“I was just trying to take pitches and it was fun to watch the attack really explode and the guys behind me play.”

Alec Bohm, Brandon Marsh and Matt Vierling also homered for the Phillies.

Syndergaard, in his first start in two weeks, threw 5⅔ shutout-innings to take the win.

“Impressive,” said manager Rob Thomson.

“Huge,” said Schwarber of Syndergaard’s effort.

The Phillies, 15-3 against Washington this season, dodged raindrops all day and night to get into the doubleheader.

Zack Wheeler will face Patrick Corbin in the series finale on Sunday afternoon and the Phillies will need some weather cooperation as it is vital that the game gets played. Rain is forecast and a postponement would push Wheeler’s turn back to Monday in Houston and that would keep him from starting Friday’s postseason opener—if the Phils get there.

The Phillies are timing Wheeler’s return from the injured list in mid-September so that he would tune in to start the postseason opener. If he doesn’t pitch on Sunday, he would line up to pitch the second game of the postseason. Aaron Nola is Monday’s scheduled starter in Houston. If the Phils rained out on Sunday, Nola would go back to Tuesday. He could potentially skip that start and be used in the postseason opener if the Phils can wrap up a postseason berth on Monday.

There’s a lot to consider here. The bottom line: The Phils have to play on Sunday.

And of course they have to win.

And if the Marlins have another one in Milwaukee, the Phils will definitely take it.


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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