September 07, 2021
It seems like ages since the Phillies were actually contending for a playoff spot in September.
It hasn't been. While the Phils have not been participants in baseball's postseason tournament since 2011, they have been in this situation quite a bit in recent years.
Last season at this time, with the expanded 8-team NL playoff field the Phillies were holding the 5-seed with three weeks to go. A year before that, in 2019, Philadelphia was five games above .500 and three back for a Wild Card spot. And a year before that, the team was 2.5 back in the NL East, holding eight games above .500.
Three Septembers to forget would follow.
Will this year be any different?
Sportsbooks have the Phillies everywhere from +220 to +350 to win the NL East, behind the Braves slotted around -275. Their pennant odds are relatively long, at +3000, via sidelines.io for what it's worth.
Over at fivethirtyeight.com, the Phillies have the fifth best postseason odds in the NL, with a 42% chance of making it. That is in part due to the multiple paths the team has to get into October. Unlike in years past, the Phillies have two avenues for the playoffs and a schedule that will help them down the stretch.
As of Tuesday morning, following their dominant win over NL Central powerhouses the Brewers, the Phillies are just 1.5 games behind the Braves in the NL East, and just one behind in the win column.
The Phillies have three games against the Braves remaining this season, a trio of games in Atlanta from September 28-30. If the Phillies remain 1.5 games back, or close to it, this series could determine the fate of the division's champion.
Aside from their duel with Atlanta, the Phillies boast the easiest schedule in the entire MLB, with opponents holding a combined .445 win percentage. Their remaining two games vs. the Brewers and their Braves series are the only five games they will play against good teams. Which is why, in large part, they have such good odds to win the division despite being in second place.
Winning the division would be a huge advantage for the Phillies, giving them a bye through the single Wild Card playoff game, but it's not their only path.
If they can pass the Padres and the Reds, whom they trail by two and one games respectively, Philly can finish second in the NL East and still be in the playoffs, with an away game on the west coast against either the Dodgers or Giants (whichever team doesn't win the NL West). That would be a tough task, to fly out west to win one game against what is likely a superior team.
The Reds have the second easiest remaining schedule, harder only than the Phillies. Interestingly, the Padres have the toughest slate of all 30 MLB teams — which makes sense in the juggernaut NL West. They have 16 games against San Francisco and Los Angeles, as those two teams fight for a division crown and the best record in baseball.
Over the next few weeks, Phillies fans will be scoreboard watching three teams as September continues: the Braves, the Padres and the Reds.
Will the Phillies avoid a fourth straight failure as Fall arrives? We'll keep you updated as the races continue.
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