So much for that easy schedule. The Phillies dropped Tuesday night’s series opener in Arizona and fell 2 1/2 games behind the Atlanta Braves, who have almost as light a schedule the rest of the way as the Phillies do.
The red-hot Braves finish a three-game series tonight in Miami before playing three in Baltimore. They have won five in a row and are taking care of business against lesser teams the way the Phillies need to.
Yes, Atlanta still has to face the Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, and Padres, but the Braves also play half of their final 42 games against teams with losing records. The Phillies aren’t the only team with a favorable schedule for the final stretch. They might seem like “easy” wins, but the Phillies are finding out that nothing comes easily.
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Scott Lauber looks at some of the storylines facing the Phillies down the stretch, including Aaron Nola’s struggles and Zach Eflin’s knee.
Alec Bohm said he had “no frustration” over being benched again for the series opener against the Diamondbacks, Lauber writes.
Phillies pitcher Kyle Gibson gives his strikeouts more meaning with donations to local charities.
Tonight: Ranger Suarez starts vs. Arizona right-hander Humberto Castellanos, 9:40 p.m.
Tomorrow: Zack Wheeler faces Madison Bumgarner in the series finale, 3:40 p.m.
Friday: Phillies open three-game series in San Diego vs. Blake Snell, 10:10 p.m.
Saturday: Phillies face Padres right-hander Joe Musgrove, 8:40 p.m.
Sunday: Phillies and Padres play series finale, 3:40 p.m.
Monday: The Phillies are off.
Stat of the day
Bryce Harper’s home run Tuesday night was his 22nd of the season, and once again it came with the bases empty. It was his 20th solo homer of the year.
It’s the first time a Phillies hitter has had 20 solo homers in a season since 2009, when Jayson Werth, Raul Ibañez, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard all did it. The franchise record for solo homers was set in 2006 by Ryan Howard, who hit a franchise-record 58 dingers that season, 29 of which were solo shots.
The Phillies have the sixth-most at-bats this season with the bases empty, and Harper entered Tuesday with just 158 plate appearances with runners on base, fewer than two per game.
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Question: Best case scenario, what do the Phillies have to do to make the playoffs? — Kevin M. via email
Answer: Thanks, Kevin. FanGraphs has the Braves winning the division with 86 wins and the Phillies finishing with 84. So let’s say 86 is the magic number. For the Phillies (61-58) to get to 86 wins, they’ll have to win 25 of their final 43 games. Over a 43-game span, the Phillies have not won at least 25 games since 2011.