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The Phillies suddenly have a wild-card chance and other observations from 7-4 win over the Nationals

The Phillies have had their attention on first-place Atlanta, but it might be time to keep an eye on what's happening in the wild-card race. There's more than one road to October.

The Phillies' Bryce Harper celebrates after his two-run home run during the first inning against the Nationals.
The Phillies' Bryce Harper celebrates after his two-run home run during the first inning against the Nationals.Read moreNick Wass / AP

Joe Girardi keeps his eye on the out-of-town scoreboard as much as anyone. The Phillies manager is not afraid to admit that he follows the happenings each night around the league.

But earlier this month, Girardi said he wasn’t following the wild-card race. His attention was solely placed on first-place Atlanta. After Monday’s 7-4 win in Washington, Girardi will need to make sure his eyes are ready for a busy month.

The Phillies are closer to the National League’s second wild-card — three games behind Cincinnati — than they are to the Braves, who lead the division by 3 ½-games after losing Monday at the Dodgers. The Phils no longer have one road to October as they can return to the postseason for the first time in a decade by either rallying past the Braves or emerging from a wild-card race that also includes the Padres and Cardinals.

“Well, I still think you concentrate on trying to win your division. That’s what you concentrate on,” Girardi said.

The season’s final month begins Wednesday and the Phillies play 30 games in the final five weeks. Scoreboard watching season is underway.

“We just need to be where we are. We can’t look ahead,” Bryce Harper said. “Understand, I’ve said it multiple times, us as a team, we need to win games. It doesn’t matter if we don’t win. It doesn’t matter what the Braves are doing or the Mets or anybody else in baseball if you don’t win. We’ve just got to keep taking care of business, doing our thing. Keep hitting the ball and keep pitching well also. And do everything we can to be where we need to be at the end.”

Lucky number 7

The Phillies scored seven runs for the fifth straight time, which is their longest stretch of seven-run games since 1980. They won four of their five seven-run games in their 1980 streak, which is the same amount of wins they have in their current streak.

» READ MORE: Phillies may have finally found a productive leadoff hitter in Odúbel Herrera

Brad Miller homered and reached base five times, Ronald Torreyes hit a three-run triple on a fly ball that hit the bottom of the left-field wall, and Harper hit his 26th homer of the season. The Phillies played without J.T. Realmuto, who rolled his ankle on Sunday. But they had plenty of contributions to pick up the slack.

Bradley’s recovery

The Phillies wasted little time in running back Archie Bradley after Sunday’s rough outing. Girardi dropped Bradley into the eighth inning with runners on first and second and the tying run at the plate and one out.

Bradley, who had been slowed this week by a sore shoulder, allowed two runs Sunday in two-thirds of an inning with a fastball that lacked life. A day later, he looked like the pitcher who had been a key bullpen piece for most of the last three months.

Bradley struck out Carter Kieboom with a 94-mph fastball and forced Luis Garcia to line out. He threw nine pitches and the threat was over.

“I think it was really important. I thought he was good tonight,” Girardi said. “I thought his stuff had more electricity to it. Had [Connor] Brogdon got through that inning, I would have closed with Archie. But I didn’t want to send him back out coming off a sore shoulder. But I thought his stuff was really good.”

Jankowski’s exit

Travis Jankowski entered the game in the seventh inning as part of a double switch but was removed just an inning later after fouling the ball off the top of his foot during his at-bat in the top of the eighth.

Jankowski has split time this month in center with Odubel Herrera and gives the team a valuable extra outfielder to bring in as a late-inning defensive replacement. X-rays on his foot were negative, but Girardi said Jankowski could be placed Tuesday on the paternity list.

Wheeler’s night

Zack Wheeler was good enough for the Phils to win, but he is not exactly cruising into the final month of the season. Wheeler allowed four runs on five hits in six innings while walking four. He has a 6.41 ERA in his last four starts.

Wheeler walked the bases loaded in the first inning before escaping without a run. His two-run inning in the second could have been avoided had Andrew McCutchen been able to track down a shallow fly ball and if Jean Segura was a tick quicker when trying to turn a double play. It was a weird start as Wheeler’s stat line could have changed drastically if a few things played differently.

“It’s one of those stints where some things aren’t going your way,” Wheeler said. “It was a couple hard hits but some soft stuff that fell in and kind of snuck through. You have to take it with a grain of salt even though the results weren’t there for me like I wanted them to be. Today felt pretty good for the most part. I know I had four walks, but after the second inning, I settled in a little better. I need to be better even when things aren’t going my way. I need to bear down and just get out of those innings.”

The right-hander did not have his best stuff but still gave the Phillies six innings. Their road to October gets easier if Wheeler can pitch the way he did for most of the season.

Harper’s homecoming

Do you think Harper likes to hit at Nationals Park?

His two-run homer in the first inning was his eighth home run at his old ballpark since signing with the Phillies, which is the most over the last three seasons by a visiting player. Harper’s OPS in D.C. with the Phils (1.162) is the second highest among the 35 visiting players who have totaled at least 40 plate appearances there since 2019. The player he trails? Herrera, who went 2 for 4 on Monday.

“I like hitting here. I always have,” Harper said. “I see the ball really well here. I love the ballpark. I just feel really good in this ballpark and in the batter’s box as well. Every time I get in there, I feel like I’m the best player in the world. I just really, really do. That’s kind of how I feel.”