Here’s what has happened since the Phillies last made the playoffs: The Nationals won the World Series, the Braves won four division titles, and the Mets won the pennant. And if the standings hold, the Marlins will reach the postseason this year while the Phillies spend another October at home.
The Phillies are 1½ games behind the Marlins for second place in the NL East and trail the Brewers by two games in the loss column for the final wild card.
The Phillies started a rebuilding process before the 2015 season. Six seasons later, they’re two games below .500 with four games to play and on the outside of an eight-team playoff. It’s fair to wonder what exactly they’re building toward.
You’re signed up to get this newsletter in your inbox every weekday morning during the regular season. If you like what you’re reading, tell your friends it’s free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @matt_breen. Thank you for reading.
— Matt Breen (email@example.com)
The Phillies' attempt last month to patch up their bullpen in a trade with the Red Sox already looked like a bad move. Heath Hembree is on the injured list, and Brandon Workman has been woeful.
But if Matt Klentak still hoped that his trade could be salvaged, he needed about 15 minutes Tuesday night to wash that hope away.
In Boston, Nick Pivetta struck out his eighth batter in five innings to finish his Red Sox debut. And shortly after, Workman served up a two-run, walk-off homer in Washington as the Phillies lost their fourth straight game. The Phillies gave up two pitchers — Pivetta and Connor Seabold — for two relievers who have a combined 9.27 ERA.
“This obviously isn’t what I was looking for when I came over here,” Workman said. “It wasn’t what the team was looking for.”
Perhaps Pivetta will have the same inconsistency in Boston that he had in Philadelphia. But he and Seabold would have at least given the Phillies some help this month as the team’s thin starting-pitcher depth required yet another bullpen game Tuesday.
Pivetta allowed one run Tuesday night for Boston against Baltimore, with four hits, three walks, and eight strikeouts. Maybe Seabold, a third-round pick in 2017 and a promising right-hander, won’t pan out. But it would’ve been nice for the Phillies to find out for themselves.
“I’m just really grateful for this opportunity,” Pivetta told reporters in Boston. “It’s been over a year since I’ve been able to start in the big leagues. To be able to go out there and put five pretty good innings out there, I was very elated.”
“I’m given two opportunities to showcase myself and do the best I possibly can. I’m looking forward to every opportunity I have and just moving on from that.”
The Phillies added two pitchers to their bullpen who have allowed a combined 11 home runs in 22⅓ innings. Not only did the Phillies fail to address their bullpen last month, but they also sacrificed two young starters who could have helped this year in either the rotation or bullpen.
And one of them looked pretty good Tuesday night just as a pitcher he was traded for was stumbling again.
“It’s hard to explain, and we’ve worked at it and tried to get them right,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “You know, they’ve had success in the past and had been pretty good. For whatever reason, it hasn’t happened here, and it’s extremely frustrating.”
“This will be difficult to fathom for anyone who watched the Phillies melt like fondue in each of the last two Septembers. But what happened Tuesday in a doubleheader in Washington was as bad as it gets for a team that fancies itself a postseason contender,” Scott Lauber writes after the Phillies lost twice to the Nationals.
One welcomed sign for the Phillies: J.T. Realmuto played in both games of the doubleheader and expects to finish the season on the field.
“If you love baseball and you love the Phillies, you keep tuning in even though the product churns your stomach like a midnight Big Mac,” Bob Brookover writes. I’ve never had a midnight Big Mac, but I’ll take Brookie’s word for it.
Today: Zach Eflin pitches series finale in Washington, 6:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: The Phillies are off.
Friday: Vince Velasquez starts series opener in Tampa Bay, 6:40 p.m.
Saturday: The penultimate game of the regular season, 7:07 p.m.
Sunday: The regular season ends in Tampa Bay, 3:10 p.m.
A team with a losing record could make the postseason for the first time in major-league history. The worst team ever to make the playoffs was the 2005 Padres, who won the National League West with .506 winning percentage. The 82-win Padres were swept in the first round by the Cardinals. The 1973 Mets reached the postseason with a .509 winning percentage and lost the World Series to Oakland in seven games.
If you’re looking for a success story, the 2006 Cardinals had a .516 winning percentage (83-78) but won the World Series after entering the postseason as National League Central champs. But the Cardinals had the seventh-best bullpen in the National League, which the Phillies do not.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Question: When will the playoffs actually start? — Larry L. via email
Answer: Thanks, Larry. The final day of the regular season is Sunday. The American League playoffs will begin on Tuesday, and the National League playoffs will begin next Wednesday. If the Phillies make the playoffs, they’ll play next Wednesday through Friday.