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September 20, 2021

Scoreboard watching: Phillies in the mix in two playoff races with two weeks left

The Phillies, despite dropping a winnable game Sunday night in Queens, did what they had to do to to get back into the thick of both the NL East race and the Wild Card race, winning their previous four games against the Mets and Cubs.

So what do they need to do over the season's final 13 games to punch a ticket into the postseason (for the first time since freaking 2011)? Here's an overview of both races:

The NL East

Thanks to the schedule pitting the Braves against the NL West leading Giants while the Phillies played the meager Mets, Philly cut all the way into Atlanta's 4.5 game lead, getting within one before Sunday night saw them lose 3-2 to New York while the Braves salvaged their series finale out west.

Trailing by two games, the Phillies in theory control their own destiny. They have 10 games against really bad teams and one series of three against the Braves (in Atlanta) next week. If they can remain two games back, they'll be able to get in first in the NL East by sweeping the Braves. Here's a look at each team's remaining schedules:

Orioles, 5th AL East (3)at D'Backs, 5th NL West (4)
Pirates, 5th NL Central (4)at Padres 3rd, NL West (3)
at Braves, 1st NL East (3)Phillies, 2nd NL East (3)
at Marlins, 4th NL East (3)Mets, 3rd NL East, (3)

The Braves have two tough opponents back to back in the Padres — who are fighting for their own playoff hopes (more on that in a second) — before hosting the Phillies. You can see the timing for the Phils to gain even more ground, if they can win series against Baltimore and Pittsburgh, and if the Braves falter against the Padres.

The statistical analysis site gives the Phillies a respectable 25% chance to winning the NL East, while Fangraphs gives them at a slightly higher 26.5% chance. DraftKings handicaps the Braves at -250 and the Phillies at +200.

Winning the division is much preferable to the Wild Card, as that would put the Phillies in a one-game playoff in L.A. against the Dodgers. But it's better than nothing, and the Phillies are very much alive in that hunt as well.

The second NL Wild Card

Philly is 3.5 games back of the Cardinals, just a half game back of the Reds and tied with the Padres for the final slot in the National League. This fate is slowly becoming less and less likely, but it is a legitimate avenue to the playoffs, with each of those squads boasting tougher slates of games. 

at Brewers (4)vs Pirates (3)vs. Giants (3)
at Cub (4)vs. Nationals (4)vs. Braves (3)
Brewers (3)at White Sox (2)at Dodgers (3)
Cubs (3)at Pirates (3)at Giants (3)

The Padres schedule is a gauntlet, so let's not worry so much about them. The Cardinals face the first place Brewers seven times, but they've already clinched the division and may not have a lot to play for, as them reaching the Giants for the No. 1 seed seems unlikely. The Reds are done facing winning teams and could have an edge.

For what it's worth fivethirtyeight gives the Phils a 5% change of catching the Cards for the final wild-card berth. Fangraphs gives a slim 4.2% chance.

The action continues with Ranger Suarez on the mound against the Orioles Monday.

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