MIAMI – Extension Engine Starts…Now.
With three weeks to go, Phillies are still well placed to end a decade-long playoff drought, even after Thursday night’s 5-3 loss against the Miami Marlins. They have 19 games left and a four-game cushion – plus a tiebreak – on the Milwaukee Brewers.
The odds are good – 94.6%, according to the Baseball Bulletin.
But, well, let’s just say the road is about to get even more challenging, with seven of the next nine games coming up against the Strong Braves starting Friday night in Atlanta.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said quarterback Brandon Marsh, who went 4 for 4, which is half of the Phillies’ stroke. “That’s why we get up and do what we do. You want to play the best of the best and see where you stand.”
See, for years, the Phillies’ hopes had been dashed by their inability to beat the bad teams. It’s unfair, then, to point to their 28-5 record since mid-July against the Marlins, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Washington Nationals — the league’s four worst teams — and call them a paper tiger.
It’s also true that after playing 22 consecutive games – and 42 of the last 54 – against losing teams, the Phillies (80-63) will play their next nine games against the Braves (88-55) and the Toronto Blue Jays (81-63).
So, yeah, they’re getting close to a playoff. It won’t come easy.
“I feel more confident than ever with our football club,” said interim manager Rob Thompson. “We are playing really well. They are fighting. There is a lot of energy in the dugout. Everyone is pulling for each other. So, I am really confident.”
The Velez got past a speed bump in their last meeting with the Marlins before another intimate meeting (Announced Crowd: 7877). Noah Sendergaard created a 4-0 hole by dumping first-team Homer Jordan Grouchans in the third inning and a giant three-stroke breaker for Brian de la Cruz on the full count in the fourth inning.
“I just tried to get rid of the change bullshit,” Sendergaard said. “And it just ended up in the wrong part of the area.”
When the Phillies acquired Syndergaard in a final business deal, there were questions about how he could withstand the stretch after he had barely made the past two years while returning from Tommy John’s elbow surgery and working in a six-man rotation with the Los Angeles Angels.
It was a mixed bag.
In eight starts, Syndergaard clocked 4.79 ERAs and allowed five homeowners to run in 47 runs. But he has completed no fewer than six innings five times, and Velez was 5-3 in his prime.
Given the prospect of Zach Wheeler returning next week and the way Billy Walther came up with him in his place, Velez could face a decision on whether to keep Syndergaard on a regular turn.
But the Phillies head to Atlanta with even greater fear. They faced three Marlins originals – Sandy Alcantara, Edward Cabrera and Pablo Lopez – and scored a total of 10 runs. It wouldn’t be easier ahead of the Braves, who will send Max Fried up the hill Friday night followed by Jake Odorizzi and rookie rookie Spencer Strider on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Since the All-Star break, the Phillies have played only four series against the winning teams. They went 3-2 in two series against the Braves and 2-5 in two games against the New York Mets. They are 6-6 overall against the Braves.
“I think we just played really well against them,” Thompson said. “It’s going to be a good seven matches, I’m sure.”
Tell this to Velez: They’ve proven themselves good.
Now, everyone is about to find out how amazing they really are.
Marsh punctuated a strong streak in Miami with his second game of four strokes of his career. He also pulled several balls on the warning track in the center field.
In the last five matches, Marsh has been 10 to 19. Since he came on a trading deadline to catch Logan Ohhope, he’s done so I worked with batting coach Kevin Long On extending his stance to use his legs more. They tried to eliminate Marsh’s move to improve his timing and cut back on hits.
It is a work in progress. Marsh is 24 for 80 (300.) with 24 strokes in 25 games with the Phillies.
“I just trust the process and grind in the cage and all the things behind the scenes,” Marsh said. “A lot of the credit goes to a lot of other people. But it has been a little fun tour so far.”
After eliminating Phillies for five rounds, Lopez gave up Homer’s solo to Kyle Schwarber in the sixth round.
He celebrated Schwarber’s 38th in the league and returned to the highest level of his career, which was set in 2019 with the Chicago Cubs. Schwarber leads by a double over Austin Riley of Atlanta to win the English Premier League title.
With Rhys Hoskins out with his bruised right hand, Phillies lost another player. Edmundo Sosa came out in the sixth inning with a tight right hamstring after one hit run out to third base.
Sosa, who will be re-evaluated on Friday, was limping around the club after the game. Asked if he thought the injury was serious, he said, “I can’t tell you now. It hurts. The hamstrings are painful.”
In his previous five starts, Sosa was 10 to 18 with four pairs, one triple, and two.