Credit the Phillies for not following the lead of other teams in baseball — looking at you, Mets and Nationals — and requiring fans to have two separate tickets for Friday’s seven-inning doubleheader. One ticket gets you two games plus fireworks. That’s a good deal. But it could have been even better.
The Phillies could have started the second half by stacking Friday’s doubleheader with Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler and giving themselves their best shot to sweep the two games and keep the momentum rolling from the way they entered the All-Star break. Instead, Nola is on the COVID-19 injured list and Wheeler is not pitching until Sunday as a way for the Phils to rest him after he led the majors in innings in the first half. Matt Moore and Zach Eflin will handle the doubleheader. Friday is still a good deal, but it would have been great if one ticket had gotten you Nola and Wheeler.
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An easy schedule should help the Phils’ playoff chances
The Phillies could use a lot of things over the next 11 weeks to finally return to the postseason. They could use another starting pitcher and a premium reliever. They could benefit from their lineup’s hitting the way it did in the final week of the first half, and they would sure like Wheeler to keep pitching the way he has.
But one thing the Phils won’t need in the second half of the season is help from the schedule makers. The Phillies had one of the hardest first-half schedules in baseball, but they have the easiest remaining schedule in the majors. Their opponents have a combined .461 winning percentage.
The Mets’ remaining schedule has a .511 winning percentage, fifth highest in the majors. The Nationals, who have a .490 remaining strength of schedule, are the only other National League East team with a remaining slate under .500.
FanGraphs projects the Mets to win the division with 88 victories. To reach that number, the Phillies will have to go 44-30 (.595) in the second half. An easy schedule makes it possible.
The Phillies will open the second half with four games against Miami (.438 winning percentage), end July with three in Pittsburgh (.378), and play seven next month against the Diamondbacks (.283), who own the worst record in baseball. If the Phils are in it in September, they’ll play four against the Rockies (.440) and three against the Cubs (.489) after both teams have likely sold off their stars.
And then if they need to make one final push, the Phillies will finish the season with 10 of their last 13 games coming against the Orioles (.315), Pirates, and Marlins. To make the playoffs, the Phillies just have to win the games they’re expected to win. But we’ve watched enough in the last several seasons to know that’s not always as easy as it looks.
Can Andrew McCutchen continue to defy his age and other questions for the Phillies as the second half begins.
Nola remains on the COVID-19 list and will not pitch for the Phillies this weekend.
How the Phillies drafted a player most teams never heard of, and other draft observations
Today: Matt Moore starts second-half opener vs. Miami, 4:05 p.m.
Tonight: Zach Eflin starts Game 2 of the doubleheader, approximately 30 minutes after Game 1.
Saturday: Vince Velasquez faces the Marlins after lasting less than three innings in his last start, 6:05 p.m.
Sunday: Wheeler makes his first start since pitching in the All-Star Game, 1:05 p.m.
Monday: The Phillies are off before playing two at Yankee Stadium.
Stat of the day
This is only the fifth season since 1901 that the Phillies finished the first half with exactly a .500 record, according to Baseball Reference. The Phils previously had a .500 mark at the break in 1958, 1967, 2007, and 2013. In 2007, the Phillies were 44-44 — which matches their current record — and the Mets were in first place — just like they are now — at the break. We know what happened next.
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Question: Will the Phillies be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline? — Ben C. via email.
Answer: Thanks, Ben. For now, they’ll be buyers. The deadline is two weeks away, and the Phillies are within striking distance of first place. They’d have to really plummet for that to change by July 30. Their last road trip seemed to secure their fate as buyers at the deadline. Now we’ll see how serious of a buyer Dave Dombrowski wants to be. It’s shaping up to be an interesting month.