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The Phillies’ best path to the postseason might be through the wild card | Extra Innings

After losing three of four games to the noncontending Rockies, the Phillies are 4 1/2 games out of first place in the NL East but still only 2 1/2 off the pace for the second NL wild card.

The Phanatic watches Bryce Harper step into the batter's box Sunday at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phanatic watches Bryce Harper step into the batter's box Sunday at Citizens Bank Park.Read moreMONICA HERNDON / Staff Photograp

Say this for Bryce Harper: He’s an optimist.

Even after the Phillies were blown out, 11-2, at home Friday night by the out-of-contention Colorado Rockies — a rout that left manager Joe Girardi seething — Harper outlined what he believes is still a realistic road to the postseason.

“I just think that we need to be in striking distance when we get to Atlanta,” Harper said, referring to a Sept. 28-30 series against the division-leading Braves. “I think if we can do that, if we pick up the way we’re playing right now, we’ll be OK going in there.”

Maybe so, but after dropping three of four games to the Rockies, the Phillies are 4 1/2 games behind the Braves (five in the loss column) with 19 games left. It isn’t insurmountable. But if the Braves finish 10-10, the Phillies would have to go 14-5 to tie them.

If there’s a path to the playoffs for the Phillies, it might be through the wild card.

They trail both the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres by 2 1/2 games for the second wild-card spot. The Reds have lost 10 of their last 14 games, but have nine games left against the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates. The Padres, meanwhile, lost second baseman Jake Cronenworth (broken left ring finger) and possibly pitcher Blake Snell (groin tightness) Sunday.

“You still look at the division,” Girardi said. “But the bottom line is you have to win games. We have to win games, and we have to play better.”

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The rundown

No team has given up more homers in 0-2 counts than the Phillies. J.T. Realmuto explains why they’ve had so much trouble putting away hitters.

Realmuto also offered an interesting observation about why the Phillies are struggling against noncontending teams (read: Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, and of course, the thorny Miami Marlins).

For years, Vince Velasquez seemed to have nine lives when it came to reclaiming his spot in the starting rotation. Not anymore. He was designated for assignment Saturday even though the Phillies don’t have a No. 5 starter.

Mickey Moniak is back with the Phillies. But will he play this time?

Harper hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2017 or the All-Star Game since 2018, which explains how one of baseball’s biggest stars was an underrated MVP candidate for much of the summer. MLB really needs him to get back on the national stage.

Important dates

Today: The Phillies are off.

Tomorrow: Kyle Gibson starts at home vs. the Cubs’ Adrian Sampson, 7:05 p.m.

Wednesday: Ranger Suárez faces Cubs righty Alec Mills, 7:05 p.m.

Thursday: Joe Bullpen takes on Cubs ace Kyle Hendricks, 6:05 p.m.

Friday: The Phillies travel to New York to face the Mets, 7:10 p.m.

Stat of the day

Aaron Nola allowed three two-strike hits Sunday, including a home run to Colorado’s Garrett Hampson. It has been a recurring issue. Nola leads the majors with 72 two-strike hits against him. Of those, 12 have been homers.

But it isn’t just Nola. As a team, the Phillies have given up 466 two-strike hits, seventh most in baseball. In particular, they struggle in 0-2 counts. They lead the majors with 16 homers allowed when they get ahead 0-2.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.

Question: Love your column. Did the Phillies make a mistake with Didi [Gregorius]? Don’t see much contribution this year. Thanks. — Chris P., via email

Answer: Thanks, Chris. Gregorius is batting .219 with 11 homers, a .660 OPS, and 16 errors, third most among shortstops. Add it up, as does with its WAR calculation, and he has been worth one-tenth of a run less than a replacement-level player. So, yeah, not good.

It wouldn’t be as big of a problem if the Phillies signed Gregorius for one year. But they gave him two in a market in which other free-agent shortstops (Marcus Semien, Andrellton Simmons, and Freddy Galvis) signed one-year contracts. You asked if the Phillies made a mistake. I suspect they wish they could have a do-over.