It’s all over but the clinching.
A second consecutive loss to the Braves, 7-2 on Wednesday night in Atlanta, shoved the Phillies to the brink of elimination. Unless they win their last four games — and get help from the New York Mets this weekend — the Phillies will miss the playoffs for a 10th year in a row, the longest active drought in the National League.
For weeks, Bryce Harper set the goal of getting to Atlanta within striking distance of the Braves. But since the Phillies arrived, they have looked gassed, scoring only three runs on eight hits in 18 innings.
Even Harper seems to have hit a wall. The MVP candidate played in his 68th consecutive game Wednesday night. He has been in the lineup every day the Phillies have played since June 27. And after carrying them to this point, Harper is 0-for-7 with a walk and five strikeouts in the two games at Truist Park.
“I think Bryce has probably had a weight on his shoulders for a long, long time,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s been so good for so long, I mean, he’s bound to run into a [rough] day or two, right? He’s just bound to do that. But he’s been carrying a lot of weight for a long time.”
It’s almost over now. With one more loss, the Phillies’ faint playoff hopes will be dashed and Harper, at last, can relent.
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Few teams have a roster as top-heavy as the Phillies. It would be on the nose, then, if they were to become the first team to miss the playoffs but have an MVP and Cy Young winner (Harper and Zack Wheeler, respectively).
The Phillies hired Preston Mattingly, son of Don, to revamp their minor-league system. Good luck. Here’s the story of how they landed on Mattingly.
Tonight: Kyle Gibson vs. Atlanta righty Ian Anderson, 7:20 p.m.
Tomorrow: Ranger Suárez vs. the Marlins’ Sandy Alcántara, 7:10 p.m.
Saturday: The Phillies continue their series in Miami, 6:10 p.m.
Sunday: Season finale vs. Marlins, 3:10 p.m.
Stat of the day
In his final start of the season, Aaron Nola fell victim to a recurring problem: two-strike hits.
Nola allowed six more of them, increasing his season total to 82 and tying him with Texas’ Jordan Lyles for the most in the majors. By comparison, Nola gave up 63 two-strike hits in 2019, 65 in 2018, and 57 in 2017.
As a team, two-strike hits have plagued the Phillies. They have given up 511, second most in the National League.
“It’s just better execution is what it comes down to,” Girardi said. “We have to be better. Just have to be better.”
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.
Question: The Phillies’ bullpen has 34 blown saves. How many of those games did they actually lose? — Michael F., via email
Answer: Thanks, Michael. Great question.
A blown save can occur in the seventh inning or later, meaning a team can blow more than one in a single game. The Phillies blew multiple saves May 8, June 23, June 26, Aug. 27, and Sept. 15. But as you note, a team can also rally to win after blowing a save. The Phillies have actually done it quite often. They are 15-13 in games in which they blew one save.