The Phillies have spent the final month of the season with one eye on the field and a wandering eye on what is happening in places such as San Diego and Chicago and Minnesota and pretty much anywhere else baseball is being played.
Reaching the postseason, which would likely be a one-game playoff with the winner playing the Dodgers, will be an uphill battle. FanGraphs gives the Phillies a 3.6% chance to reach October. They spent Friday’s off-day tied with the Mets and two games behind the Brewers and Cubs for the National League’s second wild card entering the day’s action.
The Phillies will open a two-game home series Saturday against Boston before traveling on an 11-game, 10-day road trip to Atlanta, Cleveland, and Washington. Winning against those teams will be hard enough, but the Phillies will also need some help from clubs that have little left to play for.
That’s what has had them keeping tabs on games other than their own.
“There’s a big scoreboard out there that tells us the whole thing,” J.T. Realmuto said of the team’s ability to track the other teams in the race.
They need to go on a run over their final 16 games, and that can happen only with consistent offensive output. But they scored six runs Tuesday and nine Thursday and combined for just three in losses Monday and Wednesday.
If their offense comes alive, they’ll then need their bullpen — which is relying heavily on midseason reinforcements such as Blake Parker, Mike Morin, and Jared Hughes — to carry a rotation that is failing to pitch deep into games.
The Phillies’ final stretch of the season is much more challenging than that of some of the teams they are chasing. That’s why the odds are so slim.
Here’s a look at the paths the rest of the wild-card teams have to travel:
Playoff odds (entering Friday): 97.7%
Easiest series: Away vs. Miami, Sept. 20-22
Toughest series: Home vs. Atlanta, Sept. 13-15
Record vs. Phillies: 9-5 (five games left)
The Nationals entered Friday with a 3½-game lead over the Brewers and Cubs and were another two games better than the Phillies and Mets. They are in the driver’s seat, but there’s still a lot of road left as the Nats play 14 of their final 17 games against the Braves, Cardinals, Phillies, and Indians.
They have the starting pitching to reach October, and their offense is averaging 6.56 runs since Aug. 1, but their bullpen is a concern. They’ll need Sean Doolittle to return to being an elite reliever and lean on pitchers such as Fernando Rodney and Wander Suero and Hunter Strickland to make sure that Patrick Corbin, Max Scherzer, or Stephen Strasburg can start a one-game playoff.
Playoff odds: 51.9%
Easiest series: Home vs. Pittsburgh, Sept. 13-15
Toughest series: Away vs. St. Louis, Sept. 27-29
Record vs. Phillies: 2-5
The Cubs entered Friday with a .662 winning percentage at home and a .413 percentage away from Wrigley Field. So consider it good news for the Cubs that they opened a 10-game homestand on Friday. It’s the longest homestand remaining for any team in the wild-card race, and the first six games come against the Pirates and Reds.
It’s hard to see the Cubs fading. Their starting rotation has a 4.69 ERA since Aug. 1 and could be a hindrance, but that mark is 3.90 at home and 5.10 on the road. The Cubs have a playoff-tested rotation and a lineup that should be deep enough to overcome the loss of Javy Baez. They are returning home at the right time.
Playoff odds: 33%
Easiest series: Home vs. Pittsburgh, Sept. 20-22
Toughest series: Away vs. St. Louis, Sept. 13-15
Record vs. Phillies: 4-3
The Brewers lost MVP candidate Christian Yelich this week to a knee injury that will keep him out at least for the rest of the regular season, but they were able to rally to finish a four-game sweep in Miami. They still have a dangerous lineup with Yasmani Grandal, Ryan Braun, and Mike Moustakas.
Milwaukee will play three games in St. Louis this weekend against the division-leading Cardinals before finishing the season with 13 games against teams with a combined .448 winning percentage. They will open a seven-game homestand on Monday with four games against the Padres, who gave the Cubs a fight this week, and three games against the Pirates, who lost one of their pitchers this week in a fight with a teammate.
The Brewers will end the season on the road, but it’s a cushy six-game road trip to Cincinnati and Colorado. The Reds could play spoilers, though: They’ve won five of their last six games this season against Milwaukee.
Playoff odds: 20.8%
Easiest series: Home against Miami, Sept. 23-26
Toughest series: Home against the Dodgers, Sept. 13-15
Record vs. Phillies: 7-12
If the Mets can survive this weekend against the Dodgers, they’ll be rewarded with 10 straight games against the Rockies, Reds, and Marlins. They have the pitching to keep up in the wild-card race, and they entered Friday averaging nearly 5.9 runs per game in September.
Seeing the Mets reach October, after they upgraded their rotation at the trade deadline and sent their trimmings to Philadelphia, would be a sore sight for the Phils. The Mets will end the season with three games at home against the Braves, who will either be setting up for the playoffs or fighting for home-field advantage. And if the Mets are still in it, Atlanta’s interest that weekend could be a huge factor in the wild-card race.
Playoff odds: 1.9%
Easiest series: Home against Miami, Sept. 16-18
Toughest series: Home against St. Louis, Sept. 23-25
Record vs. Phillies: 4-2
Arizona’s three leaders in WAR from last season — Paul Goldschmidt, Patrick Corbin, and Zack Greinke — along with outfielder A.J. Pollock are playing elsewhere, yet the D-backs managed to stay in this year’s wild-card race into September.
Their unlikely playoff hopes hit a snag this week in Queens when the Mets handed them a four-game sweep. But don’t count them out just yet. They entered Friday with 12 of their final 15 games coming against the Reds, Marlins, and Padres.